By Victoria Okorie

According to WHO, the term “Female Genital Mutilation” refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Basically, FGM is carried out by different people for so many different reasons. However, various researches have proven that none of the reasons to be unjustifiable. While most people carry out the practice on baby girls few days after birth, others do it during puberty while others even do it before marriage. We have had of communities where women who were not cut during their lifetime must be cut even before they are buried.  Basically, there are 4 different types of FGM as classified by World Health Organization (WHO).

FGM Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The 2 subdivisions are, FGM Type Ia: removal of the prepuce/clitoral hood (circumcision) and FGM Type Ib: removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

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

The 3 subdivisions are of FGM Type II are; FGM Type IIa: removal of the labia minora only; FGM Type IIb: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora; and FGM Type IIIc: partial or total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora.

FGM Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the 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).

The 2 subdivisions are, FGM Type IIIa: removal and appositioning the labia minora with or without excision of the clitoris; and FGM Type IIIb: removal and appositioning the labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris.

The last type is the Type IV also known as UNCLASSIFIED refers to all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

FGM of any type is a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways.

FGM practice is strongly rooted in culture and tradition; it has not been an easy task in getting people to abandon the practice despite the harmful effects on girls and women.

For more information on female genital mutilation and its effect, kindly visit our website on www.endcuttinggirls.org.

Generally, a girl is young female human, usually a child or an adolescent. When she becomes an adult, she is described as a woman. For the sake of this conference, we will limit our view to a young girl or teenager.

It is important to train and raise ENDFGM advocates amongst young girls as they are more prone to being cut. Good orientation and education on the practice of FGM would enable them to speak out from being cut or speak out when their sisters or friends are to be cut.

Normally, young girls are usually in primary, secondary or very few who are in the university. To train and raise them as advocates, we must target the schools and communities where they reside.

This is becausethere is direct link between FGM and education and this has posed as one of the leading tools towards eradicating the practice of FGM. 

In this regard, the program advisor for USAID Somalia MaryBeth McKeever said that advocacy should be focused on community education communities (CECs).

“These communities are composed of parents, students, teachers, school administrators and traditional/religious leaders and each school has one.

These CECs have been instrumental in increasing girls’ education and can help these pupil and students make informed choices on decisions that will impact their health, education and lives.

The connection between FGM and education is twofold: education and awareness about the practice and its risks and general educational attainment.

Teaching and raisinga girl as a change agent on the dangers of FGM is a powerful tool in changing public opinion and reversing the trend. However, the importance of overall education may seem less clear.

The International Center for Research on Women published a report on FGM and education that stated that, while more research needs to be done, “emerging evidence illustrates that basic education can be an effective instrument for abandoning the practice of FGM.”

Several persons are yet to come to terms with the significant relevance of educating these students as a powerful tool to eradicating the practice of FGM.

This was so evident in the research conducted on mothers by International Center for Research. This research shows that women are less likely to have their daughters cut as their level of education rises.

Education exposes these girls to a variety of competing ideas and concepts and a broader worldview. This allows them to make more informed decisions regarding their own reproductive health.

To further achieve this (raising girl child change agents), there is need for school-based interventions and further highlights the important role (s) that schools can play in ending this practice whilst nurturing young change agents.

Educating these girls can also give them the freedom to make decisions to improve their lives, which has deep social implications.

By imparting literacy, education also facilitates the pupil’s access to information about social and legal rights and welfare services.

Learning to read and write can bring greater confidence and agency to identify and challenge inequality throughout society. .

For instance, just as with FGM/C, low levels of education are a significant risk factor in perpetuating and experiencing intimate partner violence so the earlier these girls are informed the better it is for the society..

To further buttress this, the DHS program of 2016 showed that women (which indirectly refers to the girl child) with higher levels of education are less likely to have undergone female genital mutilation..

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The importance of empowering young girls as FGM advocatesis an important tool that cannot be overemphasized. We will briefly discuss on strategies that can work in empowering/ equipping these girls.

Possession of right education resources is the first pathway towards achieving our aim. This implies that teachers should be taught and should be able to transfer right knowledge to the girls.These resources include; . 

Lesson plans on citizenship and PSHE teaching resources which have been carefully structured in order to ease girls into sensitive areas of discussion on FGM. Read more here Action Aid: FGM Teaching Resources.

Lesson plan on raising awareness of the practice of FGM and to educate the young girls about facts, issues and where to seek help if at risk. Read more here Healthy Schools: KS3 FGM Lesson.

Lesson plan to help girls distinguish between myth and fact. This is a great “ice breaker”, which explores why FGM is perpetuated through such myths and engages these girls on the importance of critical thinking. Read more here Orchid Project – Challenging the Myths.

The use of the award-winning drama-documentary, “Silent Scream” tells the story of a young Somalian girl living in Bristol. Read more here Documentary – “Silent Scream”.

Beyond teaching them, we should endeavor to provide them with IEC materials which will serve as a guide for them when educating their parents, peers or communities.

We should continually increase girls’ access to education, because educated girls are less likely to allow their mothers cut them or subject their future daughters to FGM.

If EndFGM agents are inducted amongst young girls in schools, they should be well guided and should also commit to some actions. These actions include; .

Respectfully educate parents, senior family members, religious leaders and health professionals on the potential harmful effects of FGM..

Support and engage in village/community campaigns (they should be guided by parents), which aim to change social norms at the community level instead of only individual attitudes.

As stated earlier FGM is regarded as a form of gender based violence (GBV) and is also a violation of human rights, young girls should be well equipped with necessary information about FGM.

The past campaigns to end FGM have been focused mainly on older women and men so as to prevent the incidence of FGM. But in the future, we would highly recommend that be actively young girls be carried along in the campaign and their enlightenment should be made a priority just like the enlightenment of older people (Women and Men) is. .

The past campaign has also witness the involvement of young men, there should be more involvement of young girls, for they are the most affected by impact of FGM. 

As part of the efforts to empower young Girls as #endFGM change agents in Nigeria, The Outcome 2 of the joint programme result framework is toGirls and women are empowered to exercise and express their rights by transforming social and gender norms in communities to eliminate FGM

The UNJP supports capacity building skills for girls–educated or not–based on competencies, and through comprehensive sexual education programs, professional development and programs of “Girl Club’s” 

The aim of the capacity building is  to integrate FGM in the life skills of girls with the objective of making them agents of change in their families and their communities. 

Currently these capacity building workshop has taken place in most of the UNJP pilot communities. 

Capacity building programmes for Girls in and out of school is currently going in the joint programme Pilot states (#Osun, #Ekiti, #Ebonyi, #Imo, and #Oyo)

When empowerment programs like the sensitization and training of young girls is deliberately created as a strategy for social change, and then we can be assured of positive changes sooner than later.

When young girls are trained on what they believe and understand the impact of their voices, they can represent their families and communities with pride, courage and ability.

Proof of this can be seen in Ebonyi state when a teenager, Njideka and two other girls, stood their ground on not undergoing FGM because of the information she had received in in School and the Church. Njideka’s stance led to a public declaration of the abandonment of FGM by some communities in the Izzi Clan of Ebonyi State.

In conclusion, young girls are major stakeholders in the fight against FGM and must be empower as End FGM change agents. 

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.orgor 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.