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FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Progress Report: How Youth Are Changing Traditions Fueling FGM In Africa – 25.02.2020

Venue: Endcuttinggirls Facebook Event Page

Anchor: Raymond Okpani

25th February, 2020

Time: 5pm – 7pm (Nigeria Time)

Over the years, the campaign to end female genital mutilation through the initiative of UNICEF #endcuttinggirls has become one of the most successful campaign towards eliminating female genital mutilation.

Let me re-emphasize that in the recent times, the discussion, campaign and issues around harmful traditional practices especially FGM have become one of the most talked-about topics.

However, despite the massive interventions across FGM-practicing communities, with a lot of messages, there is need to use multi-pronged approach to keep driving the change to end this harmful practice.

Today, we will be looking at the various ways young people are changing the norms to accelerate the campaign to #endcuttinggirls in Africa.

According to WHO, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated and are living with the negative consequences of the practice.

It is also estimated that 3 million girls are at the risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. So, what is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)!?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is also widely called various local and traditional names according to the community where it is practiced.

FGM is a form of violence which is based on cultural beliefs and gender norms. This harmful practice is performed on babies, girls and women depending on the community

In most communities, FGM is seen as a protection of virginity, a beautification process, and in a number of cultures is regarded as an essential precondition of marriage. There are different forms of FGM, some of which involve more radical excisions in the genital area than others.

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

FGM Type 1 is defined as the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The subgroups of Type 1 FGM are: type 1a, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type 1b, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

FGM Type 2 entails the 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 2a, removal of the labia minora only; type 2b, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; type 2c, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

FGM Type 3 involves the 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.

FGM Type 4 is also known as unclassified and involves all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

The FGM Type 4 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 Africa including Nigeria.

FGM has so many consequences including short and long terms consequences ranging from excessive bleeding, trauma, Contraction of infections, etc.

Although the elimination of FGM was originally regarded as a mere question of health education and information, today FGM is recognized as a socio-cultural problem that is deeply rooted within the societies in which it is practiced.

Thus social change is indispensable if the practice is to be ended permanently. Commitment to ending FGM is symbolic of the effort to strengthen the position of women and women’s rights generally, because FGM is a serious violation of human rights, and its elimination would serve to advance virtually every one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the last decade, UNICEF under the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM, has supported strategic stakeholders, advocates, government institutions and civil society organizations (NGOs) to collectively and innovatively work together to eliminate FGM.

So many approaches, methodologies and various levels of advocacy have been deployed by various stakeholders with the youth championing major aspect of the initiative.

Many girls and young women are still subjected to genital mutilation in the name of ‘tradition.’ In the beginning, it was difficult to talk to anyone about that issue, as this is an unnegotiable topic and not ready for open discussion.

But against all odds, young people have taken to the stage in the campaign and deploying all possible strategies to combat the practice of FGM. I will be sharing about key strategies that young people are using to change Traditions Fueling FGM In Africa

Creating Awareness: Young people are predominantly affected by the practice of FGM, they have been helping to end this practice by engaging in aggressive awareness campaigns in rural communities, where cultural beliefs and societal pressure to conform to existing traditional practices force parents to let their girl children go through this excruciatingly painful and medically unnecessary procedure.

Engaging schools: The youth have been engaging with those who can various stakeholders across communities. Additionally, most youth advocates have directly engaged with various public and private schools to sensitize the students, especially girls, about the dangers of FGM. Since it is girls who are affected, such visits are led by fellow youths and in most cases, a female survivor of FGM who shared their personal experiences.

Engaging schools and religious leaders: The youth also engage with religious leaders to speak out against FGM through the various religious platforms.  For example, Nigeria is made up of highly developed and diversified religious groups, and the religious leaders are given enormous respect and weight in Nigerian society. Based on the respect they carry; youths have been engaging the religious leaders to convince their parents and community leaders to stop the practice of FGM.

Seek government support: One of the most effective ways to record maximum result in the campaign to EndFGM is through government support. As a result, young people are getting approvals for government’s support, while their advocacy efforts have led to and strong political commitment to enact strict penalties for those who still practice FGM.  Young people have been leading the way in tackling development, gender, and health issues, which are major components to ending the practice of FGM. They just need to be given more opportunities.

Advocacy to parents/traditional leaders: Young people have been highlighting the harmful health implications of FGM to parents and traditional leaders in communities where it is practiced, explaining that girl children who do not undergo FGM grow up to be healthy women and are no less female than girls who undergo FGM/C

Personal commitments: Youth, as future parents, are making personal commitments not to allow themselves to be subjected to FGM, and they are also promising not to subject their own children to FGM in the future.

Surveillance: In Nigeria, the youth are members of the Community Based Child Protection Committee (CBCPC), where they are monitoring the compliance to commitments made during the public declaration of abandonment of FGM.  

Organizing school-level art contests has been a very strategic initiative in the FGM campaign because it allows people from different cultures and different times to communicate with each other via images, sounds and stories. Young people have been using various Art contest as a vehicle for social change especially in the campaign to #EndFGM

The art contests have also given voice to the politically or socially disenfranchised. And in most cases, a song, film or novel can rouse emotions in those who encounter it, inspiring them to rally for change.

Peer education: Peer education aims to influence young people’s attitudes and behaviour patterns for the better. In Nigeria young people that have been trained on FGM inform other young people, their peers, about health and gave them their support in coping with their problems and telling them where they can seek for support.

Partnering with school clubs: Youth in school clubs (Health, Press, Debating Society, etc.) are collaborating with UNICEF-partners and are being trained to include ending FGM into their regular Club activities in the school.  These clubs are very active in creating awareness about FGM in their schools.

Life Building Skills training: UNICEF and partners are training girls (in-and-out of school) on ‘Life Building Skills” and FGM.  This empowers them to talk to their peers, family and community members about the need to end FGM.

Intergenerational dialogue: Years of experience have shown that education and awareness work alone do not bring about behaviour change.  Therefore, youth are engaging in the intergenerational dialogue, which is based on the principle of listening and questioning rather than instructing. It enables participants to reflect on their values, customs, traditions and expectations and to consider

whether, when, how and under what conditions change should take place.

There are so many other ways youth are using to accelerate the campaign to end female genital mutilation but the points mentioned above have formed some of the most effective methods and ideas to engage various traditions and ending the practice across all communities.

In conclusion, youth are the key to change. It is essential that they become empowered through education and various approaches to bring about behavioural change. It is equally important to involve their social environment into the change process – the decision-makers, that is, such as parents and traditional and religious leaders.

This is where we will end today’s segment of the conference and will gladly standby to take your questions. Thank you for staying with us

To learn more about the @endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign, please visit www.endcuttinggirls.org for information.  You may also follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls

At this point, I will give room for questions and contributions from participants. Thank you for joining us.

Together we will end FGM in this generation.

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FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: “Strengthening campaign to end FGM through Arts and Entertainment” – 29th October 2019

Conversations around music, storytelling, film production and other forms of art as strategic media for ending #FGM are very vital as the deliberate production of these art forms tailored to pass the message on the Effects of FGM will help push the cause farther. Considering a production force of approximately 50 movies weekly with almost double that number of songs, and an audience that cuts across all classes of people, the Nigerian film and music industry is undoubtedly an asset that must be maximized in ending FGM.

In Nigeria, “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” has adopted ARTs and Entertainment (Theatre, Music, Nollywood, etc) as tools for the elimination of FGM.

Before we go further with this conference, I’d like us to revisit what FGM is for the sake of those that are joining us for the first time.  

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, 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. #endcuttingirls

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.

It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with the effects of FGM, and 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).

In Nigeria, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2016-17) revealed that 18.4% of women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 27% (2011). Conversely, the FGM prevalence among daughters (0-14 years) rose from 19.2% (2011) to 25.3% (2016-17).

For more information about FGM you can visit www.endcuttinggirls.org

The practice of #FGM has thrived in a culture of silence. In a lot of communities where it is practiced there’s an unspoken lock on the lips of victims regarding the negative effects of fgm.  Years of advocacy and research has shown that FGM is often treated with indifference and sometimes feigned ignorance of its existence. This ignorance and indifference is premiered by the culture of silence attached to the practice.

The Nigerian film industry fondly called Nollywood is arguably the largest hub of entertainment in Africa. With a work force of people from all regions, tribes, and religions in Nigeria, Nollywood is undoubtedly an attractive partner in the fight to End FGM. The industry is known to produce movies that carry vital information and lessons for all who see them and so leveraging on this as well as its popularity would help spark conversations about #FGM in all households, communities, rural and urban settlements.

The production of relative stories through films would encourage survivors in practicing communities to talk more about the effects of the practice especially in their lives and lives of loved ones.  While some cutters may be ignorant of the adverse and long term effects of #FGM movies that carry the message would serve as a medium and tool of education and enlightenment.

Movies on community declarations featuring the collective abandonment of FGM in rural communities alike should also be promoted. Movies like this would not only spark conversations in homes but in the community at large.

Further familiarity with the message of the adverse effects of FGM,  is a sure step towards mass reorientation and education, which would prepare families to make better decisions regarding the practice of FGM.

On how music is can also be a powerful tool; Music has the power to infiltrate the consciousness of an entire generation of people and influence their emotions and eventually, their actions. Music can unite groups and help them stay strong together to achieve a common goal.

The use of music in communities for rituals such as coronation, naming ceremonies, and rites of passage events including FGM predates literacy. It therefore can also be used to promote positive changes in these communities. Music is so powerful that one song, one right song, about FGM can reach and compel millions of people in Nigeria and across the world, causing social actors to unite under a common cause to End FGM.

Other forms of art that can be beneficial to this initiative include:

  • Mouth to mouth storytelling: a good number of us would remember stories that we were told as children and the morals that we drew from them. Imagine a generation of people who have been told stories about the harmful effect of FGM from their childhood?
  • Drawings/Paintings: Art works have been known to evoke certain emotions without using words. Paintings can be made to tell stories. Stories of the pain and struggles that come with FGM.
  • Creative competitions: Game shows and competitions have over time become a source of entertainment for people. Schools, churches, and even communities can come together to organise competitions (singing, dancing, etc) that push the agenda of FGM abandonment.

Additionally, in our of our Tweet conference held Thursday, 17th October 2019 The anchor @_chzy in her tweets highlighted some of the importance of Music as a powerful tool for mobilizing Communities to end FGM, as follows:
The use of music in communities for rituals such as coronation, naming ceremonies, and rites of passage events including FGM predates literacy. Music therefore can also be used to promote positive changes in FGM practicing communities.
Song writing competition for in and out of school youths within the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” focal communities would help develop unique music for such communities.

Creating play songs for growing children with the message to end FGM will embed this message in the fabric of the DNA of the next generation. I know I still remember songs I played to as a child, the only definition I remember from my junior secondary school days are the ones I made into songs. ‘Social Studies’ was a bore for me so I added music to my notes.

Dance dramas with compelling wordless music can be created by community members. This kind of music has the power to make audience pay attention and get drawn into the message, owning the message as they have to put words to the drama and music themselves.

Music has always been a powerful educational tool. We have established in previous topics on this conference that education is a vital key in ending FGM in this generation. Here is a link to the transcript on the conferences edition on education.

Music as a tool of change is an inexhaustible topic, but we will have to stop here to give room for questions. While waiting for said questions, I will be posting examples of songs written and sung for the purpose of accelerating change across the globe.

In conclusion, the role that Art and Entertainment have to play in the cause to End Female Genital Mutilation cannot be overemphasised or undermined. It is our hope that this industry puts in more effort to see that they play their part in this campaign.

Thank you for joining in this month. I would pause now to take your questions.  

For more information, please visit www.endcuttinggirls.org also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @endcuttinggirls. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel via https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg?sub_confirmation=1 for educational videos on FGM.  .

Together, we will end female genital mutilation in this generation. .

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FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Partnering with Education Sector as strategic partner in the campaign to EndFGM in this generation – 27.09.2019

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, 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.

FGM has short terms and long term effects on the health and well-being of girls and women. Short term effects of FGM include: severe pain, excessive bleeding, shock, genital tissue swelling, infections, while the long term effects include chronic genital infections, urinary tract infections, painful urination, keloids, perinatal risks, etc.

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM  practice violates women and girls’ rights to health, security and physical integrity, rights to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and rights to life (when the procedure results in death)

For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int or watch

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

It is estimated that about 200 million girls/women have undergone FGM and about 3 million girls/women per year are at risk.  Unless action to end FGM is accelerated, another 68 million girls will have been cut by 2030 (Antonio Guterres – UN Sec. Gen.)

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2016-17) revealed that 18.4% of women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 27% (2011).  Conversely, the FGM prevalence among daughters (0-14 years) rose from 19.2% (2011) to 25.3% (2016-17). 

In the regard of FGM and education, the program advisor for USAID Somalia MaryBeth McKeever said that advocacy should be focused on community education communities (CECs), and these communities are composed of parents, students, teachers, school administrators and traditional/religious leaders and each school has one.

Community education communities (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 pupil and students about 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 students, male and female, 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 and agency.

This emphasizes on the need for school-based interventions and further highlights the important role (s) that schools can play in ending this practice.

Educating pupils 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, low levels of education are a significant risk factor in perpetuating and experiencing intimate partner violence so the earlier these pupils are informed the better it is for the society.

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.

The importance of empowering pupils/students as FGM advocates is an important tool that cannot be overemphasized. We will briefly discuss on strategies that can work in empowering/ equipping these pupils.

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 pupils. These resources include; . 

  • Lesson plans on citizenship and PSHE teaching resources which have been carefully structured in order to ease students 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 about facts, issues and where to seek help if at risk. Read more here 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”.

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 pupils’ access to education, because educated pupils (boys or girls) are less likely to allow their mothers cut them or subject their future daughters to FGM.

If EndFGM advocates are inducted amongst pupils, they should be well guided and should also commit to some actions. These two actions are listed below…

  1. Respectfully educate parents, senior family members, religious leaders and health professionals on the potential harmful effects of FGM.
  2. 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.

Virtually every school in Nigeria have school clubs and mainstreaming EndFGM 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 been cut.

Not only that, a topic consistently discussed becomes a norm amidst them and anything that looks like it becomes a taboo to them and that’s because it’s a talk they hear every time, the teacher once taught on it, the club members presented on it and the drama students once acted a drama on the subject matter.

Last year (2018) UNICEF Supported School based #endFGM activities in some selected secondary schools in from the five project states (Osun, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo and Oyo State). 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kevlo0KXJQE .

Because of the recent happenings in FGM practicing communities where Girls travel outside their states to present themselves for FGM secretly due to peer pressure, targeting school clubs can help reduce such pressure.

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

The Life Building skill Progarmme will empower Students will to the elimination of harmful practices as proposed by Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UNJP has commenced Phase III (2018-2021). The vision is 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”. 

The four expected outcomes of Phase III of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM are:

  • Outcome 1: Countries have an enabling environment for the elimination of FGM practices at all levels and in line with human rights standards.
  • Outcome 2: Girls and women are empowered to exercise and express their rights by transforming social and gender norms in communities to eliminate FGM.
  • Outcome 3: Girls and women access appropriate, quality and systemic services for FGM prevention, protection and care.
  • Outcome 4: Countries have better capacity to generate and use evidence and data for policymaking and improving programming.

When the capacity of school clubs in are built on the area of ending FGM, Schools with Press and Debate club can come up with inter class debate on topics on FGM? 

Also the press clubs can organize a writing or speech or poem contest on the subject matter, student tends to believe their own research more than what they were ordinarily told.  The school art club can organize a poster competition which can be inter class or even interschool, some people get communicated to more with images and music that writing or even what they were told.

The school newscasters can adopt a closing statement that they will always close their news with, words like this that is always repeated every time they listen to the school newscasters can help it become a norm faster.

Before I end the presentation, its good we Note that FGM is treated as a harmful traditional practice under Physical and health Education in the Junior Secondary School Curriculum in Nigeria.

At this point, I will step aside to entertain your questions or comments or contributions. Thank you so much for participating at this conference and we hope you had a great time learning our platform. .

For more information, please visit www.endcuttinggirls.org also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @endcuttinggirls. Don’t forget subscribe to our YouTube channel via https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg?sub_confirmation=1 for educational videos on FGM.  .

Together, we will end female genital mutilation in this generation. .

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FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Partnering with Community Based Associations in the Campaign to end FGM In Nigeria – Tuesday, 27th August 2019

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, 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.

FGM has short terms and long term effects on the health and well-being of girls and women. Short term effects of FGM include: severe pain, excessive bleeding, shock, genital tissue swelling, infections, while the long term effects include chronic genital infections, urinary tract infections, painful urination, keloids, perinatal risks, etc.

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM  practice violates women and girls’ rights to health, security and physical integrity, rights to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and rights to life (when the procedure results in death)

For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int or watch

FGM practice is strongly rooted in the people’s culture and so, it has not been an easy task in getting people to abandon the practice despite the harmful effects on girls and women. It is estimated that about 200 million girls/women have undergone FGM and about 3 million girls/women per year are at risk.  Unless action to end FGM is accelerated, another 68 million girls will have been cut by 2030 (Antonio Guterres – UN Sec. Gen.)

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2016-17) revealed that 18.4% of women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 27% (2011).  Conversely, the FGM prevalence among daughters (0-14 years) rose from 19.2% (2011) to 25.3% (2016-17). 

Girls and women living with have experienced a harmful practice and should be provided quality health care, while those at risk should be protected from being subjected to this harmful procedure.

The “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM: Accelerating Change” is being implemented to end FGM in 16 countries including Nigeria.  It commenced in 2008, while Nigeria joined in 2014. Phase III began in Jan. 2018 and will end by Dec. 2021.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM is playing a mammoth role in achieving Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goal, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices by 2030, under Goal 5 of the SDGs.

In Nigeria, one of the strategies adopted by the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” is partnering with Community based Associations to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Community Based Association is a public or private non-profit organization that is representative of a community or a significant segment of a community and works to meet community needs. Examples are Community Women Associations, Youth Associations, Age Grade Associations, Association of Custodian of Cultures and traditions and Market Women Associations etc. 

Different Community Based Associations usually meet on specific occasions or at least monthly or weekly to discuss developmental issues affecting their communities.  These groups are referred to as Community Based Associations.

Community Based Associations are typically, and almost necessarily, staffed by local members -community members who experience firsthand needs within their neighborhoods.

Community Based Associations is representative of a community or a significant segment of a community and works to meet community needs.

Since they are so localized, Community Based Associations they will understand the issues surrounding FGM in the community they operate.

One of the best features of a Community Based Associations, due to their localized focus, is that it is they will have wealth of information regarding the issues like FGM.

Community Based Associations can engage communities in multiple ways, this include “having an open dialogue with the community, will increase awareness on the effects and consequences of Female Genital Mutilation”.  

Community Based Associations can collaborate with community partners and local organizations easily because they understand the structure of their environment.

Community Based Associations positively affect the process of rural change through increase in income, improvement of health, health education of the people.

Communities therefore seek solace in Community Based Associations which pressurize government for attention to development problems in their communities and/or undertake development programmes and projects that they observe that are very much needed in their immediate communities.

The Community Based Associations are associated with self-help. They constitute the media for resource mobilization to confront local challenges. Such associations are not money driven but purpose driven.  

These include stopping dangerous social norms, holding government to finance programs at rural level and press their needs and developing human resources against future development needs of immediate communities.

In communities where FGM is not discussed in the open, partnership with CBYA will help in making FGM an open topic for discussion during community gathering.

Community Based Associations can help at community levels to identify the root cause of Female Genital Mutilation in their community and why it still persist.  

This can be found out through survey of residents and discussion with community leaders, health workers and parents, Results of this survey would reflect the personal beliefs, viewpoints, and judgments of community members.

This can be used for intervention because People who respond to such surveys will give valuable information about knowledge, attitudes, and their beliefs concerning Female Genital Mutilation. This type of survey would include detailed information about the perception of the community members about FGM, what should be done to remedy the situation, the resources available, and the effects it’s having on the community.

Because Community Based Associations are made up of Youth, Women, Men and Custodians of Culture and traditions serving in different capacities: the justice system, the public health department, health Institutions, mental health agencies, the Division of Social Services, and Age grade groups e.t.c. they will be a strong force in ending Female Genital mutilation because they are made up of diverse people who are strong willed.

The history and importance of community based- Youth association in grassroots communities is a long one. They have been deeply involved in activities that have impacted on the livelihood of members of their communities and have gained there trust.

Partnership with Community Based Associations will not only build capacity and show commitment, it will also create an environment in which sustainability of FGM Campaign could thrive.

To partner with Community Based Associations, they need to be educated first about the harmful effect, consequences and the norms surrounding Female Genital Mutilation, this enable them function well, High level advocacy should be paid to the Custodians of Culture and tradition, Leaders of the different groups such as the Iyaloja in southwest Nigeria (Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun Ondo, Osun, and Oyo States). etc.

The Iyaloja which means the leader of the market women Association, and because of the word ‘Iya’, which means woman or mama or mother, it is natural that Iyaloja is a woman and it is one of the powerful policy making structures in southwest Nigeria.

Across various Yoruba markets and the states they belong to, an Iyaloja is usually democratically chosen she has an enormous decision-making power both in political affairs (because of her closeness to, and recognition by traditional rulers and policy makers), and in family matters.

Going by the power and influence of the Iyaloja, and their groups, working with Market Owen Associations in Southwest Nigeria will facilitate FGM abandonment process. This training will also enable them identify the problems surrounding this culture clearly and how to provide solutions.

Partnership with Community Based Associations will also allow the community take ownership of the #endFGM campaign and give room for open discussion on the issue during their regular meetings especially in places where FGM is not allowed to be discussed in the public.  

In southeast Nigeria (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo State), Community Women Associations will also deliberate the on the issue of FGM during their annual Women’s Meeting. This meeting is called the “Annual Home and Abroad meeting” or popularly known as “August Meeting”

This “August meeting” brings together all the women married into the community from different parts of the worlds.  It is mandatory for members to attend this meeting, which usually takes place in August each year. 

The “August Meeting” helps foster bonding, unity, and a sense of belonging between the women and other women who have married into their community.

Apart from intervening to resolve family or community conflicts, women also engage in community development projects, contribute to scholarship funds to support the education of indigent members of the communities, and combat violence against women.

During the Annual “August Meeting”, the women uses this opportunity to remind community members both home and abroad about the dangers of FGM and the need to abandon the practice.

It is very important to note that in communities around the world where people have openly declared to #endFGM, it has been led by the custodians of custom/traditional rulers due to partnership with their association. 

Partnering with Community Based Associations will help the success experienced in some states like Osun, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Imo and Oyo state to be sustained  in the long-term and transferred to the next generation.

It’s important to note that ending Norms like Female Genital Mutilation in a community that has accepted such over years requires input from the entire community and community base Associations is an  important platform to help reach the entire community.

In conclusion, if End FGM campaigners can identify the different community based associations around them and fully engaged them in the campaign to end FGM, FGM will be eliminated in the this generation.

At this point, I will step aside to entertain your questions or comments or contributions. Thank you so much for participating at this conference and we hope you had a great time learning our platform.

For more information, please visit www.endcuttinggirls.org also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @endcuttinggirls. Don’t forget subscribe to our YouTube channel via https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg?sub_confirmation=1 for educational videos on FGM.  .

Together, we will end female genital mutilation in this generation.

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Facebook Conference

Facebook Conference Script: FGM & Gender; The Untold Story – 30.07.2019

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined, by the World Health Organization (WHO), as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons”. The term FGM is preferred by WHO and United Nations in order to convey the irreparable physical and psychological damage done to girls and women.  

In 1997, World Health Organization (WHO) classified FGM into four types, namely, Type I (Clitoridectomy); Type II (Excision); Type III (Infibulation); and Type IV (Unclassified).  These types, which were further subdivided in 2008 by WHO, are all practiced in Nigeria.  The four Types of FGM and their subtypes are described in 7a-d.  

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

Subdivisions of FGM Type I are: FGM Type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only 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).

Subdivisions of FGM Type II are:  IIa, removal of the labia minora only; IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; and IIc, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

FGM 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).

Subdivisions of FGM Type III are: FGM Type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; and FGM 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 non-medical purposes.  It includes:

Piercing or incision of clitoris and/or labia.

Cauterisation by burning of clitoris and surrounding tissues;

Scraping (angurya cuts) of the vaginal orifice or Cutting (gishiri cuts) of the vagina;

Introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina to cause bleeding or Herbs into the vagina with the aim of tightening or narrowing the vagina.

FGM 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.

It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with or at risk of suffering the associated negative health consequences of FGM.

Every year 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to the potential negative health consequences of this harmful practice. The procedure of FGM is painful and traumatic, and is often performed under unsterile conditions by a traditional practitioner who has little knowledge of female anatomy or how to manage possible adverse events.

FGM has no known health benefits. Moreover, the removal of or damage to healthy genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and may cause immediate and long-term health consequences.  

The “Immediate & Short term complications” of FGM are 1) severe pain and injury to tissues; 2) haemorrhage (bleeding); 3) haemorrhagic shock; 4) infection and septicaemia; 5) genital tissue swelling; 6) acute urine retention; and 7) fracture of bones.

The “long-term complications of FGM” are 1) chronic vulvar pain; 2) clitoral neuroma; 3) reproductive tract infections; 4) menstrual problems; 5) urinary tract infections; 6) painful or difficult urination; 7) epidermal inclusion cysts; and 8) keloids.  

In 2006, WHO study group analysed the obstetric risks associated with FGM and concluded that women living with FGM are significantly more likely than those who have not had FGM to have adverse obstetric outcomes such as 1) Caesarean section; 2) Postpartum haemorrhage (Postpartum blood loss of 500 ml or more); 3) Episiotomy; 4) Prolonged labour); 5) Obstetric tears/lacerations; 6) Instrumental delivery; 7) Difficult labour/dystocia; 8) Extended maternal hospital stay; 9) Stillbirth and early neonatal death; and 10) Infant resuscitation at delivery.

Given that some types of FGM involve the removal of sexually sensitive structures, including the clitoral glans and part of the labia minora, some women may experience the following 1) Dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse); 2) Decreased sexual satisfaction; 3) Reduced sexual desire and arousal; 4) Decreased lubrication during sexual intercourse; 5) and Reduced frequency of orgasm or anorgasmia. 

For many girls and women, undergoing FGM can be a traumatic experience that may leave a lasting psychological mark and cause a number of mental health problems, which include 1) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); 2) Anxiety disorders; and 3) Depression.

The practice of FGM is prevalent in 30 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East, but also present across the globe due to international migration  

FGM is practiced for a variety of sociocultural reasons, varying from one region and ethnic group to another. The primary reason is that it is part of the history and cultural tradition of the community.

In many cultures, FGM constitutes a rite of passage to adulthood and is also performed in order to confer a sense of ethnic and gender identity within the community. In many contexts, social acceptance is a primary reason for continuing the practice.

Other reasons for practicing FGM include safeguarding virginity before marriage, promoting marriageability (i.e. increasing a girl’s chances of finding a husband), ensuring fidelity after marriage, preventing rape, providing a source of income for circumcisers, as well as aesthetic reasons (cleanliness and beauty).

Some communities believe that FGM is a religious requirement, although it is not mentioned in major religious texts such as the Koran or the Bible, rather FGM practice is deeply rooted in a strong cultural/social framework. It is endorsed by the practicing community & supported by loving parents who believe that undergoing FGM is in the best interest of their daughter.  

FGM is supported by both men and women, usually without question. Yet the reasons for the practice are often rooted in gender inequality.

In some communities, it is carried out to control women’s and girls’ sexuality. It is sometimes a prerequisite for marriage – and is closely linked to child marriage.

Some societies perform FGM because of myths about female genitalia, for example, that an uncut clitoris will grow to the size of a penis, or that FGM will enhance fertility. Others view the external female genitalia as dirty and ugly.

Whatever the reason behind it, FGM violates the human rights of women and girls and deprives them of the opportunity to make critical, informed decisions about their bodies and lives.

The truth is that Men, Boys, Girls and Women can be empowered as change agents to end FGM in their various communities.

Empowering young girls with adequate information will help to shape their attitudes and influence their future behaviour towards the abandonment of FGM. The empowerment of girls and Women begins with education.

Topics around FGM should be integrated into formal/non-formal education. The inclusion of this topic would make it less of a taboo and young girls can receive accurate information and this would in turn help break the culture of silence around FGM and other harmful traditional practices (HTPs).

Young girls should be trained intensively to make sure they have the necessary information needed to be an End FGM change agent.

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.

As part of the efforts to empower young Girls as #endFGM change agents in Nigeria, The Output 2 of the joint programme result framework is to “Strengthened girls’ and women’s assets and capabilities to exercise their rights”

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. 

Additionally, Men can provide critical leadership through their roles as decision makers, public figures and opinion makers by speaking out against FGM and ensuring that priority attention is given to the issue. Men can be role models for male adolescents and boys. Men have an essential role to play as community leaders in speaking out, standing together, mobilizing communities and taking action to end FGM and other violence against women.

Engaging Men who are community leaders, including religious and cultural leaders, has proved to be a successful strategy in improving the response of communal justice mechanisms to end violence against women and prevent trafficking of women and girls. The participation of positive male role models in campaigns that condemn violence against women has also shown promising results.

Under the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme for elimination of FGM in Nigeria has adopted a strategy known as MALE ENGAGEMENT ALLIANCE IN THE ELIMINATION OF FGM.

This strategy is vital because many interventions on FGM elimination do not engage men or male groups as strategic partners and advocates in leading the campaign to end FGM.  In most cases the men, and male groups, participate in community dialogues and similar social mobilisation interventions but are rarely engaged as advocates due to the belief that FGM is a “woman’s issue”.

This situation has limited the ability of men to contribute to the campaign beyond these initial engagements.  Men in their diverse roles (fathers, husbands, relatives, community leaders, religious leaders, etc.) have been perpetuating the practice of FGM either by omission or commission.

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.  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.  These Men and their groups have the potential to contribute to the elimination of FGM. 

Unfortunately, the potential of men to use their different platforms and positions to develop their communities, have not been well explored.  Engaging men as endFGM advocates will bridge this gap by engaging community-based male groups as strategic partners in promoting women’s health by advocating for the elimination of FGM.

The expectation is that if men become involved in the campaign to eliminate FGM, there is a greater likelihood that they will motivate their families and community’s to end FGM.

In 2018, the UNJP trained representatives of male groups from selected communities in the intervention LGA (Ekiti, Ebonyi, Osun and Oyo States) and supported them to form a coalition called “Male Engage Alliance to end FGM”. This strategy has been successful.

In conclusion, Collective abandonment, in which an entire community chooses to no longer engage in FGM, is an effective way to end the practice. It ensures that no single girl or family will be disadvantaged by the decision and can be achieved with the collective efforts of Men, Boys, Girls and Women.  

At this point, I will step aside to entertain your questions or comments or contributions. Thank you so much for participating at this conference and we hope you had a great time learning our platform.

For more information, please visit www.endcuttinggirls.org also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @endcuttinggirls. don’t forget subscribe to our YouTube channel via https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg?sub_confirmation=1 for educational videos on FGM. 

Together, we will end female genital mutilation in this generation.

READ MORE
Facebook Conference

FACEBOOK CONFERENCE SCRIPT: Ending FGM through Strategic partnership with key sectors such as Health, Education, and Law Enforcement – 25.06.2019

Today, 25th June 2019, the UNICEF Nigeria supported Facebook conference will discuss the topic on “Ending FGM through Strategic partnership with key sectors such as Health, Education, and Law Enforcement”. This Facebook conference is part of a multidisciplinary approach to eliminate the harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in this generation in line with the global goals.

This Facebook Event will last from 5pm-7pm Nigerian time (GMT +1).  I will attend to your questions and contributions from 6:31 to 7:00pm.  Please feel free to share the event or tag your friends to participate.

For the sake of those joining us for the first time, I shall present a brief overview of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined, by the World Health Organization (WHO), as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons”. The term FGM is preferred by WHO and United Nations in order to convey the irreparable physical and psychological damage done to girls and women.  

In 1997, World Health Organization (WHO) classified FGM into four types, namely, Type I (Clitoridectomy); Type II (Excision); Type III (Infibulation); and Type IV (Unclassified).  These types, which were further subdivided in 2008 by WHO, are all practiced in Nigeria.  The four Types of FGM and their subtypes are described in 7a-d.  

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

Subdivisions of FGM Type I are: FGM Type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only 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).

Subdivisions of FGM Type II are:  IIa, removal of the labia minora only; IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; and IIc, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

FGM 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).

Subdivisions of FGM Type III are: FGM Type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; and FGM 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 non-medical purposes.  It includes:

  • Piercing or incision of clitoris and/or labia.
  • Cauterisation by burning of clitoris and surrounding tissues;
  • Scraping (angurya cuts) of the vaginal orifice or Cutting (gishiri cuts) of the vagina;
  • Introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina to cause bleeding or Herbs into the vagina with the aim of tightening or narrowing the vagina.

FGM 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.

It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with or at risk of suffering the associated negative health consequences of FGM. Every year 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to the potential negative health consequences of this harmful practice. The procedure of FGM is painful and traumatic, and is often performed under unsterile conditions by a traditional practitioner who has little knowledge of female anatomy or how to manage possible adverse events. FGM has no known health benefits. Moreover, the removal of or damage to healthy genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and may cause immediate and long-term health consequences.  

The “Immediate & Short term complications” of FGM are 1) severe pain and injury to tissues; 2) haemorrhage (bleeding); 3) haemorrhagic shock; 4) infection and septicaemia; 5) genital tissue swelling; 6) acute urine retention; and 7) fracture of bones.

The “long-term complications of FGM” are 1) chronic vulvar pain; 2) clitoral neuroma; 3) reproductive tract infections; 4) menstrual problems; 5) urinary tract infections; 6) painful or difficult urination; 7) epidermal inclusion cysts; and 8) keloids.  

In 2006, WHO study group analysed the obstetric risks associated with FGM and concluded that women living with FGM are significantly more likely than those who have not had FGM to have adverse obstetric outcomes such as 1) Caesarean section; 2) Postpartum haemorrhage (Postpartum blood loss of 500 ml or more); 3) Episiotomy; 4) Prolonged labour); 5) Obstetric tears/lacerations; 6) Instrumental delivery; 7) Difficult labour/dystocia; 8) Extended maternal hospital stay; 9) Stillbirth and early neonatal death; and 10) Infant resuscitation at delivery.

Given that some types of FGM involve the removal of sexually sensitive structures, including the clitoral glans and part of the labia minora, some women may experience the following 1) Dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse); 2) Decreased sexual satisfaction; 3) Reduced sexual desire and arousal; 4) Decreased lubrication during sexual intercourse; 5) and Reduced frequency of orgasm or anorgasmia. 

For many girls and women, undergoing FGM can be a traumatic experience that may leave a lasting psychological mark and cause a number of mental health problems, which include 1) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); 2) Anxiety disorders; and 3) Depression.

The practice of FGM is prevalent in 30 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East, but also present across the globe due to international migration  

FGM is practiced for a variety of sociocultural reasons, varying from one region and ethnic group to another. The primary reason is that it is part of the history and cultural tradition of the community.

In many cultures, FGM constitutes a rite of passage to adulthood and is also performed in order to confer a sense of ethnic and gender identity within the community. In many contexts, social acceptance is a primary reason for continuing the practice.

Other reasons for practicing FGM include safeguarding virginity before marriage, promoting marriageability (i.e. increasing a girl’s chances of finding a husband), ensuring fidelity after marriage, preventing rape, providing a source of income for circumcisers, as well as aesthetic reasons (cleanliness and beauty).

Some communities believe that FGM is a religious requirement, although it is not mentioned in major religious texts such as the Koran or the Bible.

FGM practice is deeply rooted in a strong cultural/social framework. It is endorsed by the practicing community & supported by loving parents who believe that undergoing FGM is in the best interest of their daughter.  

Despite its cultural importance, we need to acknowledge the fact that FGM is a harmful traditional practice that violates the rights or girls and women.  These include 1) Principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex; 2) Right to life (when the procedure results in death); 3) Right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and 4) Rights of the child.  Therefore, FGM has to be eliminated.  

When FGM is conducted by healthcare providers this is also known as the “medicalization of FGM”; The medicalization of FGM refers to “situations in which the procedure (including re-infibulation) is practised by any category of health-care provider, whether in a public or a private clinic, at home or elsewhere, at any point in time in a woman’s life”.

Healthcare providers who agree to perform FGM are violating the fundamental medical ethical principle or duty of non-maleficence (“do no harm”) and the fundamental principle of providing the highest quality health care possible. 

FGM remains widespread in Nigeria with regional and ethnic variations in prevalence. 

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2016 -2017), 18.4% of women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 27% in 2011.  The decrease was also observed in the five states where the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM Elimination (UNJP) is working, namely, Ebonyi: 62.3 % to 43.2%; Ekiti: 66.2% to 62.6%; Imo: 58.4% to 51.6%; Osun: 73.4% to 67.8 %; and Oyo: 71% to 55%).

According to the MICS (2016-2017), the FGM prevalence among daughters aged 0-14 years increased from 19.2% (in 2011) to 25.3% (in 2016-2017).  In the five UNJP intervention states, FGM prevalence decreased in three States, namely, Ebonyi (6.4% to 5.2%), Imo (33.4% to 22.2%), and Oyo states (32.9% to 29.6%). While, a slight increase was seen in Ekiti (40.3% to 41.7%) and Osun (33.4 to 34.6%). 

According to the MICS (2016-2017), 21.6% of women surveyed were in support of the continuation of FGM, a very slight decrease from 21.8% in 2011.  In the five UNJP intervention states a decrease was observed in Ebonyi (11.8% to 3.8%) and Ekiti (50.2% to 31.4%); while an increase was seen in Imo (27.8% to 29.6%); Oyo: (21.2% to 30.3%); Osun: (34.8% to 38.5%).

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

Now let us talk about Ending FGM through Strategic partnership with key sectors such as Health, Education, and Law Enforcement”   

FIRST LET US DISCUSS PARTNERSHIP WITH THE HEALTH SECTOR:

Research suggests that there are several ways to win health care professionals’ support as allies in FGM abandonment efforts having in mind their programmes and organizational structures. 

  1. First, training programs for these professionals, particularly those living in areas where FGM is widely practiced, should focus on what FGM is, why it is practiced, its health impacts, and ways to prevent it.
  2. Trainings must also sensitize health care practitioners to the fact that FGM is a violation of girls’ and women’s rights to health and conflicts with the “do no harm” principle of medical practice.
  3. Second, these professionals, as a focus of FGM abandonment programs, should be given the opportunity to reflect on their own beliefs and think critically about how these views may fuel the continuation of the practice.
  4. Health professionals’ associations and health regulatory agencies should have clear guidelines and standards for providers that outline the sanctions on those who perform FGM. 
  5. These organizations should also offer opportunities for health care professionals to contribute to community efforts to promote the abandonment of the practice.
  6. Community health outreaches should include sensitization of the people on the dangers of Female Genital mutilation on the health of girls and women. 
  7. Health-care providers should be equipped with the reasons why FGM should not be performed by health-care providers and how to resist requests to do so from parents;
  8. Health-care providers should be equipped with how to recognize and manage complications of FGM, including suitable obstetric care; and how to counsel women and families on FGM-related issues.
  9. Guidelines should be in place, including medical, ethical and legal information, such as how to counsel and care for girls and women who have undergone FGM, including counselling against reinfibulation. 
  10. Deeply rooted discriminatory norms and practices that underlie FGM, including sexual concerns and eventual religious underpinnings, should be addressed, where relevant, when designing training programmes and developing protocols. 
  11. Necessary actions in this area are: appropriate national authorities should develop national guidelines for various health-care providers on how to deal with issues related to FGM, including how to care for complications and on how to resist pressure to perform any form of FGM, including reinfibulation.
  12. Training modules on FGM for inclusion in pre-and in-service curricula and training, including refresher courses and updates for all health-care providers, should be developed including nurses, midwives, medical doctors and other health outreach workers.
  13. Training of health-care providers should be integrated at the community level with other community-based activities promoting the abandonment of FGM.
  14. Health-care providers should be informed without delay about human rights and ethical perspectives as well as the harmful consequences of FGM, and that performing FGM, including reinfibulation, would give rise to civil and criminal liability.
  15. Appropriate ethical guidelines on FGM should be incorporated into the training curricula of health-care providers.
  16. The Ministry of Health and professional regulatory bodies should issue a joint policy statement against FGM.
  17. The application of existing laws and policies should address the role health-care providers play in the elimination of FGM and forbid the performance of any type of FGM, including reinfibulation.
  18. Licensed health-care practitioners must be subject to the maximum available criminal penalties that apply to anyone performing FGM. Offending practitioners may be suspended or their licences withdrawn if they perform FGM.
  19. Strengthen monitoring, evaluation and accountability Monitoring and evaluation are essential for improving health-care providers’ approaches to FGM and for refining plans to promote abandonment of the practice.

SECOND, LET US REVIEW HOW TO PARTNER WITH THE EDUCATION SECTOR

  1. Addressing a complex issue such as FGM in a way that will bring about sustainable change requires a comprehensive and context-sensitive response involving many and varied education organizational structures .
  2. Coordination across all levels is needed to understand the perspectives of these different structures, what constrains and enables them to act, and what support, training and resources they need.
  3. It is clear from previous research undertaken by @28TooMany that the inclusion of FGM education in schools is an essential element in addressing the issue.
  4. This view is also reflected in other studies; for instance, a survey of secondary-school teachers in North Central Nigeria (2015) put forward the opinion of the participating teachers that awareness of FGM and its implications should be taught in schools (Adeniran et al, 2015).
  5. In the education sector, there are also different union and associations that sees to the overall development of teachers.  Some of these unions and association includes: Teachers Union, International School Educators of Nigeria, and Association of Christian Schools International.
  6. Teachers’ union is one important structure to partner with in the education sector to end FGM in Nigeria.
  7. Teachers’ union represent the collective of teachers as employees. As such, they have strong legitimacy among teachers and play a key role in setting the standards, codes of conduct and practice, and employment terms of teachers.
  8. As teachers play a key role in preventing and responding to FGM, teaching unions can support their members to access appropriate training and support on FGM, raise awareness about FGM and advocate at a national policy level.
  9. Teachers’ unions are therefore key partners in both changing teachers’ behaviours and experiences and in looking at the wider system of education to strengthen support, capacity and readiness to address FGM.
  10. With growing pressure on teachers worldwide to measure progress in more limited ways, such as enrolment, attendance or learning outcomes, teacher report that the well-being and wider development of learners can be sacrificed (UNAIDS IATT, 2015).
  11. Working with teachers’ unions can help education systems to give teachers the mandate to better promote students’ social and emotional well-being and create safer learning environments to this end.
  12. Teachers’ unions should be involved in raising awareness of FGM among their members, producing tools and materials and training teachers. 
  13. The Federal and State Ministries of Education could do more to support teachers to address FGM by reviewing the school curriculum to accommodate FGM and other harmful practices affecting the wellbeing of children. 
  14. The Federal and State Ministries of Education (F/SMOE) could, for example, provide better and more training, professional guidance, stronger teacher resources, as well as clear written codes of conduct and ethics on FGM and harmful practices. 
  15. Work is also being done by various NGOs in Nigeria to ensure that FGM education is included in school curricula. The Girls’ Power Initiative provides information for adolescent girls both in their centres and by conducting lessons in selected schools. This outreach programme aims to educate girls on gender and reproductive-health issues, including issues around Gender Based Violence and FGM, and aims to train teachers to further this work by continuing lessons and running GPI clubs in their schools (GPI, 2016).
  16. The Centre for Healthcare and Economic Empowerment for Women and Youth (CHCEEWY) also attempts to advance FGM education in the school curriculum in Plateau, Benue and Enugu States, where it operates. In partnership with others, it trains teachers to deliver the Family Life and HIV Education and Family Life and Emerging Health Issues programmes, which are approved by the Federal Government. @28Toomany  
  17. The formation of clubs in schools to continue this education is proving successful and being supported by a number of international donors such as Oxfam (CHCEEWY, 2016). @28Toomany
  18. The Child Health Advocacy Initiative (CHAI) advocates for more FGM education in schools and through clubs in Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, and Ogun States, where it works. @28Toomany 
  19. The Center for Social Value and Early Childhood Development (CESVED) also raises awareness in schools and holds workshops for school head-teachers in Cross River State (Augustine, 2016).  @28Toomany
  20. Currently, The UNCEF-UNFPA Joint Programme is building the capacity of in and out of school girls with life skills that will enable them resist any form of FGM and educate their peers and family members on the consequences of the practice.
  21. In Nigeria, FGM has, finally being included being included in the Junior Secondary School (JSS 3) Curriculum. It is under Social Studies (Sub-Theme Culture and Social Values), and the topic on FGM is treated under the harmful traditional practices.
  22. In Nigeria, FGM has also being included being included in the Curriculum for Out of School Boys and Girls. FGM is treated under the harmful traditional practices.

THIRD, LET US REVIEW HOW TO PARTNER WITH THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

  1. To best address the issue of FGM, the law enforcement (@PoliceNGR) should work as part of a broader multi-sectoral approach.
  2. As part of this interagency approach, law enforcement (@PoliceNGR should “be educated about violence against women and girls and be trained on how to appropriately intervene in cases of violence against women and girls.”
  3. @PoliceNGR and other Law enforcement agencies such as Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) should include FGM as part of their in service training programmes for officers.
  4. The @PoliceNGR should ensure that their officers at different organizational structures are well equipped with information on how best to handle FGM cases when brought to their table. Establishing gender desks alone are insufficient; there should be routine technical/training support to designated officers on enforcing the law without compromising the safety of informants, or undermining the cultural sensitivities of the people.
  5. Nigeria’s Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) Bill was signed into Law on 28th May 2015 as the VAPP Act. The legislation contains provisions banning various forms of gender-based violence, including FGM. The VAPP Act 2015 law criminalizes “harmful traditional practices,” a term defined broadly to include FGM. This includes “all traditional behaviour, attitudes and/or practices, which negatively affect the fundamental rights of girls and women (VAPP Act 2015). Any person who performs FGM, engages, incites or abets another person to carry out FGM is on conviction, subject to a punishment of 4 years imprisonment or a fine of NGN200,000 (VAPP Act 2015). An attempt to commit any form of FGM on conviction be liable to a punishment of 2 years imprisonment or a fine NGN100,000 (VAPP Act 2015).
  6. Various states in Nigeria has domesticated the VAPP Act 2015 and in states where the it is yet to be domesticated, the Child Rights Law (CRL) and other anti-FGM laws still prohibits the practice of FGM. The VAPP Act 2015 and other laws against FGM empower the Law enforcement Agencies in Nigeria (Police, NSCDC, etc.) to arrest any individual involved in the practice of FGM.
  7. @PoliceNGR should make it easy for community members and other stakeholders to report suspected cases of FGM, and ensure that the reporter’s identity is not revealed to the public.
  8. Having in mind the organizational structure of the @PoliceNGR, the Community stakeholders should have a good working relationship with the closest police station in other to report cases of FGM.
  9. During community dialogue sessions, @PoliceNGR can be invited too to speak about the laws prohibiting the practice of FGM, its provisions and how cases can be reported to them.
  10. FGM Community surveillance team should also work closely with law enforcement agencies (Police, NSCDC, etc.) at the community or village level to effectively track down new cases of FGM.
  11. Often times, FGM survivors, those at risk and witnesses cannot report to the police directly for fear of social backlash.  Anti-FGM Advocates should be available to provide the cloak of anonymity by receiving the information and sharing with law enforcement. For advocates to be able to do this, they must be committed, trustworthy and reliable. Law enforcement will take advocates serious if their information is credible and devoid of malice. So they must ensure the credibility of the information received. Also, the members of the community must trust us to keep their confidentiality, and trust that we will take prompt steps to when aware of a threat. Advocates and Community stakeholders must also follow up on cases and reports that the law enforcement agencies are handling.
  12. We must appreciate the fact that the work of policing is an onerous one. The officers can get overwhelmed by a heavy workload.  Following up constantly helps to ensure that cases don’t fall through the cracks. When a FGM case is taken to court, advocates and community stakeholders need to be there too to provide both moral and technical support to the prosecutors and the FGM survivors.

In conclusions, partnership with key sectors such as Health, Education and law Enforcement is required to accelerate the elimination of FGM given the structure, system and personal available within these sectors to provide FGM prevention, protection and care services to women and girls in Nigeria.

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