Ademola Adebisi

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. @WHO.

An estimated of over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with the effects of FGM,

Every year some 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to its potential negative health consequences (UNICEF 2016).

With the global population expected to rise in countries where FGM is concentrated, the number of women and girls at risk of FGM annually is expected to increase if the practice is not eliminated.

FGM, which is prevalent in 30 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East, is now present across the globe due to international migration. . v

When FGM occurs in Europe and United States; it is predominantly among diaspora communities representing countries where the practice is prevalent. Girls living in diaspora communities also are at risk of “vacation cutting” in which they are sent their family’s country of origin, or to a neighboring country, under the guise of vacation or cultural learning, but instead are subjected to FGM while abroad.

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

Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy).  Subgroups of Type I FGM are: type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; Type Ib, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

Type II: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision). Subgroups of Type II FGM are: type IIa, removal of the labia minora only; Type IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora;  Type IIc, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

Type III: 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).  Subgroups of Type III FGM are: type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; Type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora. Reinfibulation is covered under this definition.

This is a procedure to recreate an infibulation, for example after childbirth when defibulation is necessary.

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.

 For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int or watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s

In order to eliminate the practice of FGM, the Phase I of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C Abandonment: Accelerating Change (UNJP) was conceived and implemented, in 15 countries, from 2008 to 2012.

From 2014 to 2017, the Phase II of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C Abandonment: Accelerating Change (UNJP) was implemented, in 17 countries, including Nigeria.  

The Phase III of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change commenced in 2018, and it is being implemented in 16 countries including Nigeria. It will end by December 2021.

The goal of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme is to contribute to the acceleration of the total abandonment of FGM within a generation in line with United Nation General Assembly Resolution A/RES/67/146 to “intensify global efforts to eliminate FGM.

As the largest global programme addressing FGM, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM plays a critical role in achieving Target 5.3 which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices by 2030, under the Sustainable Development Goal.

The Joint Programme adopts a holistic and multi-sectoral approach that supports ending FGM at household, community, national and global levels with focus on policy/legal reforms, girls/women empowerment, service provision and improved policy/programming.

In order to achieve Outcome 3 of the Joint Programme“Girls and women access appropriate, quality and systemic services for FGM prevention, protection and care”, we need to strengthen the referral system for delivering FGM-related services (esp. health).

Girls and women that have been subjected to FGM, or are at risk of FGM, require access to services (health, social or legal), which are necessary for their protection and care.

It is also important to identify and refer girls and women who have had or are at risk of FGM, because early detection provides an opportunity for appropriate care and may protect siblings and other girls in the family against FGM.

The joint programme which is currently on Phase III, which is UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change has recorded numerous achievements across the 5 implementing states.

Interestingly, some communities after so many intervention and advocacy have publicly denounced the act. As interesting as this sound, the fact that the community have publicly declared that they are no longer in support of FGM doesn’t mean the act have final gone to extinction in the community, there must be moor commitment from all stakeholders.

A Public declaration of abandonment of FGM is a defined as “formal public ceremonies involving one or more communities-typically villages but increasingly also districts and ethnic groups-that take part in an event where they manifest through their representatives, the specific commitment to abandon FGM.

It is the result of months and months of awareness, sensitization, education, and Community Dialogues, Consensus Building and series of activities.

Public Declaration of FGM abandonment reflects the courage of the communities to speak out against almost 2,000 year old practice that is taboo in many societies.

Public declarations has a multiplier effect as people have a chance to speak out and reach a consensus against FGM. People are likely to abandon FGM when they expunge the practice openly.

You can watching Videos of our Public Declaration of FGM via the Following linkswww.endcuttinggirls.org or watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s.

There are different levels of public declaration depending on the population size of the group making the declaration. But generally, FGM abandonment public declaration have a high potential of leading to other public declarations.

Public declaration does not mean that the declaring community is free from FGM, rather it represents a milestone in the process of abandonment because it signals the change in social expectations.

Having secured public declaration, it is important to strengthen the community systems to monitor it and ensure that community do not return to the practice after declaration.

Strategies that communities can deploy to ensure that community members do not return to the practice after a PDA includes the following:

Establish Surveillance Team such as Community-based Child Protection Committee (CBCPC) in the Communities where Public Declaration of FGM have been achieved to monitor compliance.

In order to sustain children’s protection from #FGM, violence, exploitation and abuse, the establishment of Community-Based Child Protection Committees and Networks (CBCPNs) is very key.

A CBCPC normally serves as a forum where community members meet, discuss child protection problems and research solutions. It is thus an informal community structure, representing all sectors in the community who have a role to play in protecting children – including children themselves.

While bringing concrete solutions to the situation of individual children and young people, they also serve as platforms for holding duty-bearers accountable for promoting child rights, protecting children from violence and minors in conflict with the law.

– CBCPC are closer to the community than the national authorities, in terms of detecting and following-up cases, and mutual respect between different community segments;

– They speak the same local language and share the same community culture and habits;

– Children are their own, which means that they will put more efforts into looking after them and protecting them from FGM.”

“CBCPCs are created through consulting and receiving approval from the community leaders. Then, active community members who are willing to work for community affairs are chosen.

CBCPC are people accepted in the community and have no past issues related to the Child Protection Policy.

After setting up the CBCPC, they should be trained on the following topics: child rights, Child Protection Policy, child protection, communication with children, case detection, following-up and referral, and other related topics.”

The CBCPCs will then monitor all birth of Female Children in the Communities and also act as surveillance that ensure that Female Children are not genitally mutilated by Traditional Circumcisers and health Workers.

Communicate the social norms shift via interpersonal communication within and between social networks e.g. age grade.

Commence/sustain social media and mass media campaign that supports dialogue rather than transmits messages .

Conduct sessions with ex-cutters to educate them about FGM and how to identify alternative sources of income

Establish and popularise a telephone helpline for reporting suspected FGM-related issues

Register all girls that have not undergone FGM as a mechanism for monitoring progress and protecting the girls.

Public Declaration is the most significant/decisive step in the campaign to end FGM, therefore we must strengthen community systems to monitor and enforce FGM abandonment after a public declaration”

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Together we will end FGM in this generation