By Cynthia Ade-Martins

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) includes all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified FGM into four types, all of which are practiced in Nigeria.

FGM Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy).

FGM Type II: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision).

FGM Type III: This type is called infibulation and involves narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation).

Type IV: unclassified – all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

Type IV also includes the practice of “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions or hot water to the clitoris to desensitize it or pushing it back into the body, which is common in many parts of Nigeria, especially Imo State.

The practice of FGM is common in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. But it can also happen to any woman or girl from any background regardless of age, race, nationality, social class, financial status or sexuality.

FGM is widely recognized as a harmful practice and a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted discrimination against girls and women, profoundly entrenched in social, economic and political structures.

While de facto violent, the practice is perpetrated without a primary intention of violence. It is considered to be a necessary step to enable girls to become women and to be socially accepted, together with the rest of the family.

FGM functions as a self-enforcing social convention or social norm. Families and individuals uphold the practice because they believe that their group or society expects them to do so and they expect that they will suffer social sanctions if they do not.

For more information on basic facts about FGM and how you can be part of this campaign kindly visit www.endcuttinggirls.com and  www.who.int. You can also watch end FGM related videos on our YouTube channel “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria”.

In Nigeria, The UN Joint Programme on FGM in recognition of the complex interplay of social, cultural, economic and political factors that increase girls’ and women’s likelihood of undergoing FGM, promotes sustainable social norms change and gender transformation.

The importance of engaging men as a strategy to end FGMcannot be overemphasized.

This strategy is vital because many interventions on FGM elimination do not engage men or male groups as strategic partners in leading the campaign to end FGM.

In most cases the men, and male groups, participate in community dialogues and similar social mobilization interventions but are rarely engaged as advocates due to the belief that FGM is a “woman’s issue”.

We have continued to neglect the fact that FGM affects both male female especially as it concerns family and sexual reproduction.

While some men have openly supported the practice by paying for the procedure or served as traditional cutters, others aid the practice through their silence and ignorance.

We all are aware that Men hold very prominent positions in the community and have a lot of influence within and outside the home, especially in a patriarchal society like Nigeria.

Men also belong to groups (religious, social, traditional, etc.) that address social issues and contribute to the development of their communities.

There are several ways of engaging men and boys in the EndFGM advocacy; these include:

Address men’s role as custodians of culture, religion and tradition by demonstrating their great potential for changing the practice.

Participate in harmless rites of passage and support them.

Support programs in their neighborhoods and campaigns against FGM.

Speak to young men about getting married to uncut girls as a way to control FGM demand.

There’s need to train men and boys on positive and caring fatherhood which aims at building capacity in terms of skills, knowledge and attitude on the role of men as caring partners in promoting gender equality and positive behavior.

In other to achieve this, men and boys are mobilized to form fathers’ groups and are trained on positive parenting models, protection of women and girls from violence, child marriage, teen pregnancy and Female Genital Mutilation(Sonke Gender Justice).

This is on the premise that when Men and boys are educated, become partners in the campaign against gender violence they tends to know their roles in protecting the girl child.

Thanks to @UnicefNigeria who have started engaging men and boys in the campaign to #endfgm in Nigeria.

Men engage Alliance groups are being mobilized and formed across the UNJP states in Nigeria.

In Kenya, the “Million Fathers” campaign, was launched in July 2012, to engage men and boys, as fathers, brothers, sons and friends, to advocate against gender violence. #

According to some activist on the need to engage and include men in the campaign, they believe that men have the final say when it comes to deciding whether or not to cut a girl-child.

“Men have a final say when it comes to FGM, mothers tend to respond without challenging it. Thus, fathers have a great power to influence the practice of FGM” -Hamza Juma (WEO – Kitunda)

“Fathers are the ones with a power to influence the practice of FGM because they are always tending to be unchallenged”-Ahmed

According to MwitaRyoba, “people need to understand that youths can be educated and understand the effects of FGM, however, the problem still remains with parents because they are the ones who do not want their sons to marry a woman who has not undergone FGM.

In Kurya customs and traditions, marrying a circumcised woman makes a man acquire respect. To change this we need to work with traditional elders to disseminate the knowledge on the effects of FGM to the community as they have a great influence.

All we know is that at the core, FGM is to prepare girls for marriage, thus men themselves have to be in the frontline to discourage such act”.

“Men have to engage men to speak out against this scourge,” said Yvonne Towikromo, Manager of the National Bureau for Gender Policy, Ministry of Home Affairs of Suriname.

There must be some level of capacity building for the male groups before a Male Engage Alliance is formed and this is aimed at;

Discussing ways in which female genital mutilation (FGM) affects women’s health and rights.

To learn about women’s sexual and reproductive rights and how understanding these rights will enable women to make informed decisions about their well-being.

To discuss ways in which men can support and promote the removal of FGM practice.

The main objective of the male engagement alliance is to promote the well-being of girls and women in their communities.

The Male Engaging Alliance just like other men group will also discuss FGM and other issues affecting their Girls and Women’s lives during their regular meetings.

To eradicate FGM and other GBV as proposed by Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), no stone should be left unturned.

Now, let’s hear and respond to those questions and contributions on your mind as we

To learn more about the @endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign to end FGM, please visit endcuttinggirls.org and follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls

Together we will end FGM in this generation.