FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Translating Political Decisions into Concrete Actions at the Grassroots to Reach the Goal of Zero Tolerance to FGM by 2030 – 6th February, 2019)

INTRODUCTION:

Good evening everyone and thank you for joining us today in our monthly Facebook Conference in the campaign to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). 

Today, 6th February 2019, marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  We shall be discussing the global theme for 2019, which is “Translating political decisions into concrete actions at grassroots level to reach the goal of zero tolerance to female genital mutilation by 2030”.  

Since 2003, February 6th of every year has been declared by the United Nations as ‘International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.  The date has since become a commemorative day to raise awareness on the implications of FGM as a gross human rights violation with severe health and socio-economic consequences for millions of affected girls and women.

A lot has been done in the campaign to end FGM but one of the major challenges still opposing the campaign has been the inadequate translation of political decisions into strategic actions that can be implemented to end the practice.

But before we take off, we will like you to invite your friends or acquaintances to join this conference. You can do this by mentioning their names in the comment section of this post to enable them get notified and join the conversation.

BACKGROUND:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as “all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.  This practice is called “female Genital Cutting (FGC)” or “Female Circumcision”.

The WHO has classified FGM into four types, namely.

  1. The first is Type I, also known as clitoridectomy. It is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce. Other subgroups of Type I FGM are: type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type Ib which is the removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.
  2. The second is Type II,also known as Excision. It is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora. Subgroups of Type II FGM may include: 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.
  3. The third is FGM Type III, also known as Infibulation, and 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.
  4. The fourth is Type IV also known as UNCLASSIFIED  refers to 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 and pushing it back into the body or desensitise it, which is common in many parts of Nigeria.

FGM violates girls and women’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death. However,  in 2015, world leaders overwhelmingly backed the elimination of FGM as one of the targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Goal 5, Target 3).  By calling for “Zero Tolerance for FGM”; explicitly naming this as an instance of a “harmful practice” that is targeted for elimination as part of our collective efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. This is an achievable goal, and we must act now to translate that political commitment into action.

EFFORTS TO END FGM:

Ending FGM takes work for many stakeholders at many levels; from dialogues and actions that engage families and communities to realize the harm caused by FGM and abandon the practice, providing protection and care services for girls/women who may be at risk, enforcing various anti-FGM laws, and political commitment at the local, regional, national and international levels that translates law and policies to have positive impact in elimination of FGM.

In 2007, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched the Joint Programme on FGM Elimination, in 15 African Countries, “to support governments, communities, and girls and women concerned towards the abandonment of FGM”. This Joint Programme was established as the main United Nations instrument to promote the acceleration of FGM abandonment.  This programme has been implemented from 2008 to date. The Joint Programme recognizes that FGM is a social norm, has adopted a culturally sensitive approach in order to bring about lasting change. 

Since 2014 when the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme commenced in Nigeria, it has supported policy formulation, institutional strengthening, service delivery and community-based activities in five focus states, namely, Osun, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo and Oyo.  It has made significant strides in supporting federal and state governments to make new laws prohibiting FGM; equipped and mobilized health care workers with requisite skills to facilitate access to quality prevention, protection and response services by girls and women at risk and survivors of FGM; providing community education and dialogue sessions that support social norm change culminating in public declarations of FGM abandonment in some communities in the five states. 

KEY MESSAGES FOR THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ZERO TOLERANCE (6TH FEBRUARY)

As we commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance, the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM has provided these key messages from for dissemination…

  1. FGM is a global human rights issue affecting girls and women in every region of the world.
  2. At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation.
  3. The majority of people in countries where data on FGM exists – girls and women and boys and men alike – think the practice should end.
  4. FGM in decline in many countries. But if it persists at current levels, rapid population growth in countries where it is concentrated will significantly increase the number of girls subjected to it.
  5. Unless action to end FGM is accelerated, by 2030 another 68 million girls will have been cut.
  6. Girls who undergo FGM face short-term complications like severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections, and difficulty in passing urine, as well as long-term consequences for their sexual and reproductive health and mental health.
  7. Girls who undergo FGM are more likely to drop out of school and face child marriage.
  8. FGM is rooted in gender inequalities and power imbalances between men and women – and it sustains them by limiting opportunities for girls and women to realize their rights and full potential in terms of health, education and income.
  9. FGM violates the human rights of women and girls, contravening established principles, norms and standards including non-discrimination on the basis of sex; the rights to health, physical integrity and life; the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the rights of the child.
  10. More than 20 million women and girls have undergone FGM by a health care provider. Medicalizing the practice does not make it safer, as it still removes and damages healthy and normal tissue and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
  11. Eliminating FGM is a critical step towards realizing other SDGs, which focus on good health and well-being, safe motherhood, quality education, inclusive societies and economic growth.
  12. Ending FGM takes work at many levels, from dialogue and action that engages families and communities, to protection and care services for girls and women, laws and their enforcement, and political commitment at the local, regional, national and international levels.
  13. Between 2013 to 2017, the prevalence of FGM among girls aged 15-19 has declined in 10 of the 17 countries supported by the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on the elimination of FGM.
  14. Some 3.3 million women and girls accessed prevention, protection and care services across 16 countries
  15. Thirteen (13) countries have laws banning FGM, and similar laws are pending in three more countries. (In Nigeria there is the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP 2015), which prohibits the practice of FGM, while several states also have their own Anti-FGM laws).

ROLES OF DECISION MAKERS:

Eliminating FGM should be a key policy priority especially for countries with high prevalence of the FGM practice. However, it requires a collective will at the local, national and regional levels of government.

The first thing is that political decisions makers must first agree that the FGM is great disservice to the dignity of womanhood and in extension the community at large. Hence, they must own up to lead the campaign against FGM at all levels.  There is need to start engaging decision makers at all levels on all round issues concern girls and women especially the issue of FGM. This will create a platform for them to understand and appreciate their individual issues and collectively identify solutions too.

Political decision makers should start leading community dialogues where community members are brought together to openly discuss and reflect on issues relevant to FGM.  It has been observed that community dialogues incite and stimulate private discussions within individuals and member of the family.

Our decision makers, especially the politicians, are expected to lead the process of not cutting their girls. But for that to happen, it is essential that the community members provide them with all necessary support to lead the process.

Although so many people have strongly advocated for criminalization, it is important to note that community engagement, led by key decision makers, is crucial for communities’ acceptance of the legislation without driving the practice underground.  It is also important to empower women and girls to gain stronger voice at the local and national levels of decision making processes to end FGM.

Policy makers should start liaising with leaders of religious groups and other social organization to start creating opportunity to sensitize people about the harmful effects of FGM and how it overall social, physical, mental and psychological effect on girls and women in overall development.

TRANSLATING POLICY DECISIONS TO CONCRETE ACTIONS:

Today, the world celebrates the 2019 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM with the theme “Translating political decisions into concrete actions at grassroots level to reach the goal of zero tolerance to FGM by 2030”.  The 2019 theme is a follow up to the 2018 theme, which was “Ending Female Genital Mutilation is a political decision”.  To mark the occasion in 2018, many policy maker made commitments to improve the roles of their sectors in the campaign to end FGM in Nigeria.  This year’s celebration provides an opportunity to engage those policy makers on how they intend to translate their decisions into concrete actions across the country.  

Meanwhile, the Executive Directors of UNFPA (Dr. Natalia Kanem), UNICEF (Henrietta H. Fore) and UN Women (Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka) Executive Directors of UNFPA (Dr. Natalia Kanem), UNICEF (Henrietta H. Fore) and UN Women (Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka) to mark this year’s event.  Some key messages in the Joint Statement provide the key direction that can guide this this process of translating political decisions to action.  These are…

  1. “At the national level, we need new policies and legislation protecting the rights of girls and women to live free from violence and discrimination. Governments in countries where FGM is prevalent should also develop national action plans to end the practice. To be effective, their plans must include budget lines dedicated to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health, education, social welfare and legal services”.
  2. “At the regional level, we need institutions and economic communities to work together, preventing the movement of girls and women across borders when the purpose is to get them into countries with less restrictive FGM laws”.
  3. “Locally, we need religious leaders to strike down myths that FGM has a basis in religion. Because societal pressures often drive the practice, individuals and families need more information about the benefits of abandoning it”.
  4. “Public pledges to abandon female genital mutilation – particularly pledges by entire communities – are an effective model of collective commitment. But public pledges must be paired with comprehensive strategies for challenging the social norms, practices and behaviours that condone FGM. Testimonials by survivors like Mary also help to build understanding of the practice’s grim reality and long-lasting impact on women’s lives. Advocacy campaigns and social media can amplify the message that ending FGM saves and improves lives”.

Conclusion

As we look for solutions to FGM, we must remember that it is not just about abandonment, it is also about empowerment-empowerment through educating women, men, and communities at large. It is about raising consciousness so that people can change their attitudes toward this outdated cultural practice. Women’s self-worth should not be tied to undergoing female genital mutilation in any society.

The elimination of FGM is a health, social, and economic issue that needs to be vigorously pursued by policymakers everywhere.  Thanks to the collective action of governments, civil society, communities and individuals, FGM is in decline, but we are not aiming for fewer cases of this practice. We are insisting on zero.

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

To learn more about the @endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign to end FGM, please visit endcuttinggirls.org and follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls #endcuttinggirls

Hits: 1

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.