Today is October 11, The International Day of the
Girl Child; celebrated annually since 2012.
this all important day is set aside yearly to promote
girl’s empowerment and fulfillment of their human rights while also
highlighting the challenges that girls all over the world face.
some level of progress has been made in promoting the health and welfare of the
girl-child in recent times. However so much still needs to be done especially in
the areas of FGM elimination.
worrisome to note that as we speak, at least 200 million girls and women have experienced
FGM in 30 countries across three continents of the world. Also disturbing
is the recent estimate by UNICEF that unless the
current trends are reversed, some 30 million more women and girls could be cut
in the next 10 years. Very pathetic projection!
note, I welcome you to our weekly twitter conference. I am @Charles_Clever your anchor for today. With me also is my co-anchor
@oloridaco1. We are glad to have you
As we mark
this year’s ‘’International Day of the Girl Child’’ today, our focus in this
conference is on “Girl-Child
Education; a Key Strategy for ending FGM”
you are joining us for the first time, FGM
stands for ‘’Female Genital Mutilation”.
FGM refers to any procedure that involves
“partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury
to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” There are different forms of FGM, some of which
involve more radical excisions in the genital area than others.
FGM has 4
types, Clitoridectomy; Excision; Infibulation; & Unclassified (e.g.
“pressing” the clitoris with hot water).
Female genital mutilation is a social norm. It
is also a deeply entrenched cultural practice with some religious undertones.
quarters, FGM is often considered a coming-of-age rite of passage and is
therefore performed near the start of puberty. In some other quarters FGM is
performed on the girl-child at any moment ranging from 8 days after birth to about
6 years of age.
have revealed that in many places where FGM is practiced, it’s believed to make
girls cleaner, to improve marriage prospects, to preserve virginity and also
has religious undertones.
rate, the practice of FGM has no health benefit for girls or women and possible
medical complications includes but not limited to: severe bleeding, cysts,
infections, difficulty urinating, issues with childbirth and even death.
In many contexts however, these
social norms upholding the practice of FGM are so powerful that families have
their daughters cut even when they are aware of the long-term physical harm it
As we celebrate this year’s ‘’International Day of
the Girl Child’’, the big question before us today is: Can girl-child education in any way accelerate the actualization of an
FGM-free society? If yes, how?
In 2017, in Izzi clan, Ebonyi
State Nigeria, some girls who were previously educated about the dangers of FGM
in school were to be mutilated by their parents at home.
On remembering the dangers of FGM
which they have been educated about the girls resisted undergoing the harmful
practice to the extent of fleeing from home when the pressure became intense.
Fortunately these three girls were
rescued by the Ebonyi State chapter of ‘Child Protection Network’ an Initiative
Upon their rescue, the agency
swung into action and kick-started series of community dialogue with various
stakeholders including the traditional rulers and custodians of culture in Izzi
The good news was that at the end
of the dialogues, Izzi clan consisting of 26 communities across 3 LGAs in
Ebonyi State (Izzi, Ebonyi and Abakaliki) came out publicly to declare an
abandonment of FGM from their land.
What triggered these series of
events that led to this success in Izzi clan? It was the education
(empowerment) of the girl-child which we seek to protect. FGM is an
infringement on a child’s basic human right and educating the girl-child
empowers her to speak out when her rights are being infringed on.
Girl-child education also equips
her with the right information with which to protect her children sometimes in
the future when she finally becomes a mother.
An African proverb says, “If we educate a boy, we
educate one person; if we educate a girl, we educate a family and a whole
nation.” An empowered woman is full of
great potentials, strength, courage and knowledge which she passes down to her
child and the society.
In places where the prevalence of
FGM has reduced, experiences reveal that such reduction was largely due to
increased education, female economic empowerment and the introduction of
so-called ‘alternative rites of passage’. ‘Alternative rites of passage’ is a
concept which seeks to replace FGM with rituals that retain the cultural
significance of a coming-of-age ceremony without physically harming the young
access to education is a key strategy towards promoting the health and welfare
of children. This is because educated girls are more likely to
voice out when their rights are being infringed on. Also, the educated girl
will someday become a mother and educated women are less likely to allow their
daughters to be cut.
Educating girls and women in cutting communities
can help question the rationale behind these archaic traditions and reinforce
the arguments against them, especially when talking to men. Although experience and
studies have shown that education of the girl-child can help to eliminate FGM. It is sad to note that roughly a quarter of
young people – most of them female – are currently not in school, employed or
Also worrisome is the fact that in
the sub-Saharan Africa where the budden of FGM is very high, about 45 million
girls of primary and secondary school age are not going to school.
This year’s theme of ‘The International Day of the
Girl-child’ which is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce” is timely.
develop A Skilled GirlForce and increase the capacity of the girl-child
to defend her rights, the global community should: Rapidly expand access to
inclusive education and training. There is need for inclusive and accessible
schools, training and learning opportunities to empower the girl-child,
including girls with disabilities. We need to break all gender stereotypes,
social norms (including FGM) and unconscious bias to provide girls with the
same learning and career opportunities as boys.
amongst the issues focused on by the International Day of the Girl
Child are education, equality, child marriage, access to services
regarding puberty and sexual health and addressing issues around gender-based
It is highly
commendable, the fact that UNICEF in a bid to address this problem is working
with the Ministry of Education to mainstream end FGM education into normal
students learning curricula. In that way FGM will be taught in school
as part of compulsory sex and relationship education.
Educating girls can also give them the freedom to
make decisions to improve their lives, which has deep social implications.
Giving girls access to schooling is a central part
of eradicating FGM and studies reveal that in most countries, women with higher levels of education are less likely to have
By imparting literacy, education
also facilitates women’s access to information about social and legal rights
and welfare services. Learning to read and write can bring greater confidence
and capacity to identify and challenge inequality throughout the society.
So what action needs to be taken? Increase girls’
access to education, since educated women are less likely to allow their daughters
to be subjected to FGM (Nigeria Demographic Health Survey, NDHS 2013). Offering
girls basic education is one sure way of giving them much greater power of
enabling them to make genuine choices over the kinds of lives they wish to
Educating the girl child is not a luxury. It is
a basic human right!
education should be free or cost very little. Where possible, there should be
scholarships to encourage families to send their female children to school.
materials should be relevant to the girl’s background and if possible be in the
local language. Reproducing gender stereotypes should also be avoided.
Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goal 5 for gender equality calls for eliminating FGM. Achieving this target will require concerted efforts, and girl-child education remains a major strategy that can accelerate this campaign.
Going forward, FGM interventions
need to have a comprehensive approach, whereby prevention, protection, but also
prosecution, when needed, and provision of services for those already excised,
are to be included.
Therefore, it is essential that
different stakeholders such as policy makers, CSOs, religious leaders, as well
as health professionals work together towards ending FGM.
FGM fundamentally remains
prevalent in societies with often pronounced gender inequalities and power
imbalances and cannot be ended without ensuring women’s empowerment. Again,
education has a critical role to play in this respect.
connection between ending FGM and education of the girl-child is twofold:
education and awareness about the practice and its risks and general
educational attainment. Teaching young girls and women about the dangers of FGM
is a powerful tool in changing public opinion and reversing the trend.
The International Center for Research on Women reported 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.”
exposes students, male and female, to a variety of competing ideas and concepts
and a broader worldview.
allows them to make more informed decisions regarding their own reproductive
health and agency. UNICEF’s education initiatives with local governments – such as their
support of mobile schools and boarding schools, improved sanitation facilities
and better quality curriculums – all contribute to ending the practice of
female genital mutilation.
the theme, With Her: A Skilled GirlForce,
this year’s International Day of the Girl marks the beginning of a year-long
effort to advocate for, and draw attention and investments to, the most
pressing needs and opportunities for girls to attain skills for employability.
It is however important to reiterate that girls’
full participation in the future workforce requires tackling gender stereotypes
such as FGM and addressing the many systemic barriers to decent work they face.
education is very necessary and an issue that cannot be overemphasised.
- As we
continue to intensify efforts towards the actualization of an FGM-free society,
let’s remember that an educated girl-child is more likely to speak out when
about being subjected to this harmful practice.
- The experience in Izzi clan,
Ebonyi State Nigeria, supports this assertion that once a girl is educated
about FGM, she will be able to assert her rights and resist any attempt to
subject her to FGM.
educated, a girl-child which will eventually become a mother someday is also
less likely to allow her female children undergo the practice in the future.
for being part of our conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm.
Visit our website www.endcuttinggirls.org and
kindly follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms.
to hear and respond to your questions and/or opinions based on the conference. Keep