TWEET CONFERENCE: COLLABORATING WITH GRANDMOTHERS TO SAVE GRANDCHILDREN FROM FGM/C AND OTHER HARMFUL TRADITIONAL PRACTICES

Today’s live tweet-conference is the first 2018 edition of the weekly UNICEF-UNFPA Joint Program on FGM/C abandonment campaign.

And our topic today is “ COLLABORATING WITH GRANDMOTHERS TO SAVE GRANDCHILDREN FROM FGM/C AND OTHER HARMFUL TRADITIONAL PRACTICES”

My name is Opeyemi Yekini (with twitter handle @ope2y) , as the anchor for today’s conference, and my co-anchor is Anthonia Okoli ( with twitter handle @Ttonia_) We shall entertain all your questions shortly, after the general presentation on the topic.

FGM/C is a typical example of harmful traditional practice(HTP). Harmful traditional practices refers to rituals, traditions or practices that have  a damaging effect on the health, physical, social, economic and psychological integrity of the victims

FGM/C is the any partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other injury to the female genital organ for nonmedical reasons.” The World Health Organization (WHO) 1997.

FGM is also known as “female Genital Cutting (FGC)”, “Female Circumcision”, or “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)”

The various terms emerged in an attempt to balance varying views and opinions on the practice and to appeal to all stakeholders in the elimination of the practice.

Erroneous Justification for HTP. There are different justifications for the practice of these harmful traditional practices in different communities amongst which are the prominent Justification

  • Religion/custom,
  • Culture,
  • Decreasing the sexual desire of women.
  • Hygiene/aesthetics,
  • Better marriage prospect,
  • Prevent promiscuity,
  • Reduce excessive clitoral growth
  • Preserves virginity
  • Facilitates child birth by widening the birth canal fertility
  • Reduce death of male children at birth because if the head of the child touches clitoris the child dies
  • Increase female fertility

FGM/C has immediate, intermediate and long term effects on the victims:

Immediate effects: Intense pain, haemorrhage (bleeding), shock

 Intermediate effects: Infection from use of unsterilized equipment leading to infections including HIV/AIDS; improper healing could lead to formation of keloid; injury from the struggling of the victim in pain leading to the injuring of the organs and glands .

Long term effects: Obstructed labour leading to vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) and Rectal vaginal fistula (RVF), Chronic infection  , Infertility , Painful intercourse

Urine retention from swelling , Painful or blocked menses , Urinary tract infection

Social and economic implications : Social: Survivor  feels withdrawn/isolated, develop low self esteem as a result of complication e.g. VVF/RVF, conflict between victims and family members

Economical: reduces victims capacity for engaging in economic ventures especially for the older ones, high financial implication of bearing complication  arising from FGM which could have been gear towards other productive ventures, valuable time lost in the care and support for FGM survivors

The UN CRC Article 24:3 calls upon, „states parties to take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.

‟ FGM is a traditional practice which is detrimental to girls‟ health but it can additionally be the source of the denial of many other rights prescribed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to protection (Article 19), the right to education (Articles 28 and 29)  and freedom from sexual abuse (Art. 34; FGM is linked with early marriage which can be a sanctioned form of child sexual abuse).

Likewise, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in its General Recommendation No. 14, from its ninth session recommends that „state parties take appropriate and effective measures with a view to eradicating the practice of female circumcision‟.

Both CEDAW General Recommendation No. 19, paragraph 20, and No. 24, paragraph 15 (d) and 18, recognize FGM as a violation of women and girls‟ right to health. No. 19 also discusses FGM as a form of gender based violence and states that the perpetuation of this practice helps to maintain women in subordinate roles and contribute to the low level of political participation and to their lower level of education, skills and work opportunities‟ (paragraph 11).

Despite the great attention to FGM as well as a myriad of national legislation and programs to combat it, girls and women are still locked in this enduring practice.

It is difficult to overcome on the local level due to deeply held cultural, social and, at times, political significance.

The difficulty in eradication lies significantly in the fact that the practice is an identifying feature of many indigenous cultures, closely linked to a girl/woman’s social status.

 GRANDMOTHERS are so important, and their role in changing any social norms cannot be overemphasized. Any failure to carry them along is already a failure in sight.

They might not have formal education, but their knowledge about culture and traditions is like personal religion, and whosoever wish to change their perception must approach must have adequate about the issue.

They have lived with the culture for a very long time, and if they are to change is not a day concept.

According to several studies, FGM continues because of cultural beliefs and tradition. The low prospect of marriage for uncut girls is often cited as the reason for the continuation of the practice.

Interviews by Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of women who have been cut reveal that “a husband will prefer his wife to be circumcised” and “circumcision prevents adultery.” Men who were interviewed listed the same reasons in higher proportions.

Programmes aimed at FGM-abandonment should identify the respected faith leaders and clergy of groups engaged in FGM and early marriage since they are the counselors and arbiters of moral opinion.

This an aggressive interventions and mechanisms to ensure that the FGM/C is permanently abandoned in this generation.

One new approach to the abandonment of FGM/C is the Grandmother Mainstreaming Concept (GMMC).The GMMC explicitly involves grandmothers as active assets in their communities to promote the fundamental rights of their grandchildren.

This include the abandonment of FGM/C and other harmful traditional practices

GMMC aims to bring about positive changes by including grandmothers and elderly women, a once-marginalized group.  The concept encourages learning and communal decision-making through open discussions about problems facing the community, especially harmful traditional practices centered on the children.

GMMC lead community members to identify harmful traditional practices militating against the children and reach consensus on possible solutions , leading to long-term effective changes in harmful practices.

The approach is holistic towards upbringing of girls’ intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral, and psychological well-being as an alternative rite of passage to FGM/C and an effort to strengthen positive cultural traditions and discard harmful ones.

The concept aims to bring greater appreciation for grandmothers’ roles in disseminating positive cultural values and a positive change in communities’ attitudes toward ending FGM/C as well as other harmful cultural practices, such as early marriage for girls and violence against women.

Advocacy as a key Strategy for Grandmothers Mainstreaming Concept(GMMC)

Analysis is the first step to effective advocacy, just as it is the first step in any effective action.  Advocacy efforts designed to have an impact on public policy start with accurate information and in-depth understanding of the problem,  the people involved, the policies, the implementation or non-implementation of those policies, the organisations, and the channels of access to influential people and decision-makers.

Strategy Every advocacy effort needs a strategy.  The strategy phase builds upon the analysis phase to direct, plan, and focus on specific goals and to position the advocacy effort with clear paths to achieve those goals and objectives.

Mobilisation Coalition-building strengthens advocacy.  Events, activities, messages and materials must be designed with your objectives, audiences, partnerships and resources in mind.

Action : Keeping all partners together and persistence in making the case are both essential in carrying out advocacy.  Repeating the message and using the credible materials developed over and over again helps to keep attention and concern on the issue.

Evaluation: Advocacy efforts must be evaluated as carefully as any other communication campaign.  Process evaluation may be more important and more difficult than impact evaluation.

ADVOCACY CYCLE

First stage  is the identification of an issue for policy action.  This stage is also referred to as agenda setting.  Advocates decide which problems to address and attempt to get the target institution to recognize that the problem needs action.

 Second stage, solution formulation, follows rapidly.  Advocates and other key actors propose solutions to the problem and select one that is political, economically and socially feasible.

Third stage, building the political will to act on the problem and its solution, is the centerpiece of advocacy.  Actions during this stage include coalition building, meeting with decision-makers, awareness building and delivering effective messages.

Fourth stage, policy action, takes place when a problem is recognized, its solution is accepted and there is political will to act, all at the same time.  This overlap is usually a short ‘window of opportunity’ which advocates must seize.

Final stage, evaluation, is often not reached, though it is important.  Good advocates assess the effectiveness of their past efforts and set new goals based on their experience.

Advocates and the institution that adopts the policy change should periodically evaluate the effectiveness of that change.

Grandmothers have the inherent capacity to  help leading the  community to a collective decision towards the abandonment of FGM/C.

We  all grew up in the hands of our grandmothers who told us stories and prepared us for adolescent stages. That is why we are trying to do what we should have done long time ago to save tomorrow’s generation from FGM and early child marriage.”

The grandmothers’ approach looks at the cross/inter-generation communication with an aim of changing behaviors.

A group of grand mothers who act as role models are trained and sensitised on the subject matter and thereafter encouraged to pass on the same messages to their grandchildren with the confidence that the grandmothers/elders in the communities are influential and champions.

The idea is that the grandmothers’ Children and Grandchildren listen to them and they in away possess a lot of influence on who their sons marry in addition to undertaking interactions with their daughters-in-law.

The grandmothers play a critical role at household and homestead level, adding that through them, a number of girls in the communities can remained uncut or rescued from FGM/C, mainly a result of the one-one advocacy they spearhead.

The grandmothers are oriented on issues of child protection especially the need for them to appreciate raising children as children free from all forms of harmful traditional harmful practices.

Key Points:

  • Grandmothers are partners , and must be involved
  • Grandmothers are asset, they have a lot to contribute
  • Grandmothers are stakeholders, they always wish their children and grandchildren the best, and therefore they must be encouraged with the right concept.

 

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