Welcome to tonight’s edition of our weekly conference aimed at achieving an end to Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, in this generation. Due to the #EndSARS protest, this chat was postponed until today. My heart goes out to all those injured and all those who lost loved ones as a result of the protest. Together we will build a Nigeria where we no longer have to campaign to #endcuttinggirls..

Last episode, we discussed the same topic but emphasis was on the legal sector and available laws against FGM. But legal regulations against FGM alone are insufficient, they need to be accompanied by culturally-sensitive activities that educate and raise awareness about FGM and its effects.

Educating school children, young adults, new couples and the community at large about the meaning, prevalence, harmful effects and care of survivors of FGM is a sure way of curbing the practice. Hopefully, many of you following this chat today will also get one or more new knowledge to

FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. These procedures are classified into four types.

Type I: Also known as clitoridectomy, this type consists of partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or its prepuce.

Type II: Also known as excision, the clitoris and labia minora are partially or totally removed, with or without excision of the labia majora.

Type III: The most severe form, it is also known as infibulation or pharaonic type. The procedure consists of narrowing the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and positioning the labia minora and/or labia majora, with or without removal of the clitoris.

Type IV: This type consists of all other procedures to the genitalia of women for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

FGM has serious implications for the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women. It also has an impact on the mental health of girl and women

The effects of FGM depend on a number of factors, including the type performed, the expertise of the practitioner, the hygiene conditions under which it is performed, the amount of resistance and the general health condition of the girl/woman undergoing the procedure. Complications may occur in all types of FGM, but are most frequent with infibulation.

Immediate complications include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, tetanus or infection, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue, wound infection, urinary infection, fever, and septicemia. Hemorrhage and infection can be severe enough to cause death.

Long-term consequences include complications during childbirth, anemia, the formation of cysts and abscesses, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), sexual dysfunction, hypersensitivity of the genital area and increased risk of HIV transmission, as well as psychological effects.

Infibulation, or type III FGM, may cause complete vaginal obstruction resulting in the accumulation of menstrual flow in the vagina and uterus. Infibulation creates a physical barrier to sexual intercourse and childbirth. An infibulated woman therefore has to undergo gradual dilation of the vaginal opening before sexual intercourse can take place.

Often, infibulated women are cut open on the first night of marriage by the husband or a ‘circumciser’, to enable the husband access into his wife. At childbirth, many women also have to be cut again because the vaginal opening is too small to allow for the passage of a baby.

Infibulation is also linked to menstrual and urination disorders, recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, fistulae and infertility.

Infibulation is also linked to menstrual and urination disorders, recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, fistulae and infertility.

Some women have been reported to become asexual as a result of infibulation.

It is important to note that a lot of myths and cultural beliefs promote the prevalence of FGM globally.

Some of these beliefs have it that girls who are not cut are not marriageable, would be promiscuous; have their clitoris grow as long as a penis and so on.

As a result, despite having suffered the pains of FGM and probably still living with its traumatic effect, a lot of mothers still allow the procedure to be performed on their daughters and granddaughters.

FGM is a sociocultural issue, education is therefore essential in order to change the attitudes and views of society as a whole and thereby change behaviours and

One of the surest ways of debunking myths and legend that promote harmful traditional practices and also steer people towards a change in social norm is education.

It is important therefore that FGM and its effects be taught more elaborately in primary and secondary schools especially. It should be made a compulsory part of the curriculum in social and health sciences.

So far, FGM is treated as a harmful traditional practice under Physical and Health Education in the Junior Secondary School Curriculum in Nigeria. Some student’s undergraduates of social sciences and humanities have also used topics around the subject as their research projects.

Aside from the obvious need to include FGM to school curriculum, the educational sector can also see to promoting access to education for women and girls.

Education empowers women and helps them to develop the skills and knowledge to lead independent lives.

By integrating FGM into formal and non-formal education, the topic is less of a taboo and girls and women can receive accurate information to allow them to make their own independent decisions.

In addition to providing knowledge, sessions on the topic should be delivered in community dialogues to exchange experiences and feelings in a safe environment.

Teachers, facilitators and youth workers should receive training so that they can educate young people and also support those at risk of undergoing the procedure, or those that have already undergone the procedure.

School counselors should also be educated specifically to be able to handle FGM related issues including peer pressure to undergo the procedure, stigmatization, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of FGM. The counselors should also have access to and contacts of protection networks that they can recommend in extreme situations.

Girls whose communities have abandoned the practice still get pressured by their peers; some of them have been reported to access the procedure from neighbouring communities. Counseling can help curb this trend.

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 as effective instrument for abandoning the practice of FGM.” (https://www.icrw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/ICRW-WGF-Leveraging-Education-to-End-FGMC-Worldwide-November-2016-FINAL.pdf – assessed 4th November 2020)

With the education sector to providing the needed information, students are able to access information about social and legal rights and welfare services.

To further buttress this, the 2013 NDHS in Nigeria shows that women (which includes female pupil/students) with higher levels of education are less likely to have undergone female genital mutilation.

It should follow that educated women are less likely to have their daughter’s cut. And able to create a support network if they are feeling empathy for the survivors of FGM.

The importance of empowering pupils/students as FGM advocates is an important tool that cannot be overemphasized.Possession of the right education resources is the first pathway towards achieving our aim.

These resources include; Lesson plans on citizenship and Personal, Social, Health and Economic education(PSHE) teaching resources which have been carefully structured in order to ease students into sensitive areas of discussion on FGM. Read more at Action Aid: FGM Teaching Resources.

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

Lesson plan to help students distinguish between myth and fact. This is a great “ice breaker”, which explores why FGM is perpetuated through such myths and engages pupils 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 Somali girl living in Bristol. Read more here Documentary – “Silent Scream”

Schools can also encourage peer education and can train champions through clubs and groups activities. Virtually every school in Nigeria has school clubs. Mainstreaming into their activities will help strengthen the campaign against FGM, it keeps reminding the students on reasons why they shouldn’t support the act, what they should do when they see anyone standing the risk of being cut.

In 2018 UNICEF supported school based  activities in some selected secondary schools in the five project States (Osun, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo and Oyo). The project targeted young secondary school students.

It was as a result of school-based activities such as this that provided an opportunity for a student to refuse to be cut, which initiated the events that led to the first ever public declaration of FGM in Nigeria by the people of Izzi Clan in Ebonyi State on 19th June 2017. 

Today, after five years of sustained dialogue with UNICEF advocates, many more communities have publicly declared an abandonment of the practice.

As recent as last Saturday, 31st October, the five communities in Ivo LGA, Ebonyi state also publicly abandoned the practice. Imagine how much we can achieve when the topic becomes an integral part of the school curriculum.

With these success stories, one can see how it would be easier to set up care facilities in communities that have abandoned or are opened to abandoning the practice of FGM than it would be for communities that have not been enlightened.

Hospitals are a good place to have care centers for the survivors of FGM. A holistic care facility would attend to physical and mental health of girls and women who have undergone the procedure.

UNICEF is still partnering with existing school clubs across the five project states to build their capacity through life building skill training for in and out of school girls.

The Life Building skill Programme is designed to strengthen students will towards the elimination of harmful practices as proposed by Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UNJP Phase III (2018-2021) has the vision to “contribute to the elimination of FGM by 2030”.  The goal is “to accelerate efforts towards the reduction of FGM, fulfilling the rights of girls and women by realizing social and gender norms transformation by 2021”.

One of the expected outcomes of Phase III of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM is “Outcome 3: Girls and women access appropriate, quality and systemic services for FGM prevention, protection and care.

For more information on many other topics relating to FGM, visit www.endcuttinggirls.org

 Also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @endcuttinggirls.

Also subscribe to our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg?sub_confirmation=1 for educational videos on FGM.

Together we will  in this generation.

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