By Adesemola Tolulope

Youth are an often untapped but potent resource for community change. To engage youth in community change coalitions brings more results especially when the youth is involved

In case you are joining us for the first time, FGM stands for ‘’Female Genital Mutilation.

FGM refers to any procedure that involves “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

There are different forms of FGM, some of which involve more radical excisions in the genital area than others.

FGM has 4 types, Clitoridectomy; Excision; Infibulation; & Unclassified (e.g. “pressing” the clitoris with hot water, petroleum jelly, etc.)

The origin and significance of FGM practice is shrouded in secrecy, uncertainty and fraught with controversy either as an initiation ceremony of young girls into womanhood or to ensure virginity and curb promiscuity, or to protect female modesty and chastity.  

FGM demonstrates deep-rooted gender inequalities and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is also a serious violation of the rights of girls’ health, security, integrity, dignity, and freedom.

FGM is not required by any religion and there is no scientific evidence that women who have been mutilated are more faithful or better wives than those who have not undergone the procedure.

It is therefore very clear that there is no single benefit derived from FGM and possible medical complications includes but not limited to: severe bleeding, cysts, infections, difficulty urinating, issues with childbirth and even death.

For more information about basic facts about FGM, visit www.endcuttinggirls.org.  We also urge you to follow the handle “@Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms for constant updates about the #EndFGM campaign in Nigeria.

You can also visit who.int or watch  

Elimination of FGM by 2030 is high on the international agenda, enshrined as target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Efforts to end FGM have been embraced by governments, regional and sub-regional bodies, media at all levels, and increasingly civil society and social movements.

However, approaches to transform the social norms on FGM have evolved to reflect new learnings. Much more needs to be done to address the deeply held myths and beliefs in these communities.

In many parts of the world, FGM is backed up by deep-seated perceptions embedded in culture, and there is an urgent need t work with Youth to end this very harmful social norm..

Youths are dynamic force for social transformation and rural community development. one theme that is emerging is that youth thrive when they have opportunity to participate in the creation of community.

The increasing presence of youth in the development process and the establishment of youth-adult partnerships have created an environment where communities are more receptive. The active involvement of youth highlights their value and provides an opportunity to erase negative stereotypes.

Recent research has focused on such positively held adult notions of youth and their relationship to encouraging youth involvement. Zeldin (2002) reported that many adults perceive adolescents as being capable of contributing to their communities, performing well in community positions, and taking proactive approaches to their life development.

This receptiveness opens the door to long-term youth involvement, while also facilitating greater appreciation for the youth contribution to the community by adults (Camino, 2000).

Influences were also important, but particularly the influence of setting an example for others. Youths as community heroes tend to have influence on the community which in turn helps spread the message clearly amongst their peer group

 To capitalize on the finding that youths are influencers, engaging them as community heroes would amplify the campaign and if they are the given the opportunity to champion the campaign it would in turn allow youth to set an example for other youths in the community

Motivations for community involvement are also important. Future efforts could stress to youth that their involvement will make a difference in changing the conditions they are not pleased with.

Specifically, it could be stressed that they can fill the void in meeting the need for new ideas and services which will make them feel the sense of leadership in championing the cause against ending FGM in Nigeria.

Youths are more active when their community are receptive to their contributions and viewed them as worthwhile to the community. Applied efforts could take the form of public acknowledgement of youth contributions, formal announcements by local leaders that youth are making important differences, and formal invitations for youth of all ages to become involved in a variety of community building efforts.

Civically active youth present a remarkable opportunity for advancing programs and significantly contributing to the development of new programs and policies. Further, active youth present the opportunity for long-term involvement and ownership of community.

Engaging youth actively as community heroes gives them the opportunity to provide new ideas and voices that will stimulate enthusiasm and investment in community structures.

 This step relates to the significance of youth investment through an enjoyment of local politics for greater youth involvement and in turns allow them to give a voice to the campaign.

 Adults must understand the invaluable impact of youth involvement in order to engage youth. This involves respecting their own youth culture, getting youth involved at all levels, and actively soliciting their input, rather than keeping their involvement on a surface-level relationship that is strictly limited to task-oriented volunteerism.

 If youth are empowered to become full partners in the community development process, they become more invested in long-term participation and contribution to their community. This can be seen as a great addition to the campaign on ending female genital mutilation.

The power of youth was well articulated by Kailash Satyarthi, a children’s rights activist, when he said, The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people.”

Tapping into the power of the youths by catalyzing collective youth action, reach, and influence; providing an opportunity to celebrate the changes that are already taking place; sharing together what has worked and amplifying success to inspire others and showing the world that young people are seriously committed to ending FGM in this generation.

Looking at the level of innovation and creativity technology has brought our way; we would have to admit that the youths are the center of it all. This would help amplify the campaign against FGM and engaging the youths as heroes in the community would help get the campaign into broader regions and informal way of passing information around would help get into different locale.

As we all work together to champion the campaign against female genital mutilation, lets involve the youths in our community because they are the center of community and they have the power to drive for a change in the community.  

It is due to the importance of working with the youth that that the theme for the 2020 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM (6th Feb. 2020) was “Unleashing Youth Power”: #YouthEndFGM

Before we conclude this conference, we need to summarize why it is important to engage the youth to EndFGM as follows;

  • Youth need to know about issues that affect them, their peers and their communities, including harmful practices such as FGM.
  • Youth can be directly or indirectly affected by FGM and will need information and support.
  • Youth bring energy, passion and a new outlook to efforts to end FGM.
  • Youth advocates are best placed to engage their peers.
  • Youth are also the driving force of developments to eliminate harmful traditional practices.
  • Youth are the next generation of key actors. Thus, engaging them on FGM will ensure that tomorrow’s policymakers, doctors, midwives, social workers, and parents are informed, responsive, and are advocates of change.

UNICEF, under the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on elimination of FGM in Nigeria, is using two approaches, Peer education and partnering with clubs in secondary School to engage community youth in the 5 focus states (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo).

Under the Peer education approach, UNICEF-supported implementing partners train girls (in-and-out of school) on ‘Life Building Skills”.  This empowers them to talk to their peers, family and community members about the need to end FGM.

Under the partnership with existing school clubs, UNICEF-supported implementing partners collaborate with school clubs (Health, Press, Debating Society, etc.) by training their members to mainstream EndFGMmessages into their regular Club activities in the school.

In conclusion, understanding that the change we want to achieve in the #endFGM campaign starts from the community and the youths are the center of the community. Encouraging and involving them in the matters of the community is a way to go.

We must also continue to celebrate the youths who have in one way or the other helped in the community in amplifying the campaign against FGM.  

Thank you for joining the conversation today. Join us every Thursday 5-7 pm (Nigerian time). Also, to get more information kindly visit www.endcuttinggirls.org or follow @endcuttinggirls on social media platforms.  

The floor is open for questions and contributions. Please do not forget to use the hashtag  or @endcuttinggirls when asking questions or making contributions.

Together we will end female genital mutilation in this generation.