According to Wikipedia, in 2010, 48.3% of Nigerians were Christians; 48.9% were Muslims, and 2.8% were followers of indigenous and other religions, or unaffiliated (source: Report on Religion and Public Life by the Pew Research Center, 18 December 2012), Christian Religious Groups are different groups or societies which can be found in churches and they differ according to denomination.
Some of the Christian Religious Groups are women organization, men fellowship, youth groups/fellowship, legion of Mary, Mary league, Pregnant Women’s Group, Singles Fellowship, etc.
In some churches, one is recognized and can be identified by one’s membership these Christian Religious Groups, and these makes the groups very strong and influential. The policies and decisions of these Christian Religious Groups are binding on their members, as they are empowered by the leadership of the Church to function.
The women Christian Religious Group for example, apart from their annual general meetings, they also meet weekly to discuss issues relating to their welfare and the progress of the Church.
In the past, “Ending Child Pregnancy Campaign” was championed by the women Christian Religious Groups of the Catholic and Anglican Church which yielded positive result, especially in Anambra State.
The Christian Religious Groups are even stronger and more influential in the rural areas where most of the FGM cases are performed.
Community engagements have revealed that FGM is practiced by loving parents, some of whom are members of different Christian Religious Groups, and they believe it to be in the best interest of their daughters or wards. Therefore, empowering these Christian Religious Groups to sustain the campaign to #endFGM will yield positive result because in those groups, there are father, mothers, brothers, sisters and even the girls that maybe cut.
Empowerment in this sense can be in form of educating members of the Christian Religious groups about FGM and its harmful effects, as well as why they should join the campaign to end the practice.
When the already available structures of these Christian Religious groups are tapped to build the capacity of the members as champions and trainers, then there is a possibility that they will accelerate the elimination of FGM.
Education has been recognized as a key to ending a social norm, since one cannot teach what one does not know. And it is when members of these Christian Religious Groups are informed, that they have a better understanding and join the campaign.
Proper information on the negative consequences of FGM will expose the truth that it has no known positive effect, as against any myth that may have supported the existence of this harmful traditional practice in Nigeria.
Some strategies which can be adopted by #endFGM campaigners for empowering Christian Religious Groups to champion the campaign are highlighted below
- Conduct group dialogue and sensitize members of these Christian Religious Groups on the importance of ending FGM.
- Train selected member of the Christian Religious Groups on how to conduct advocacy, sensitization, community dialogue and consensus building meetings.
- Involve the Christian Religious Groups in community based trainings on reporting and tracking of FGM related cases.
- Empower Christian Religious Groups to use their regular meetings as avenues for training and sensitizing members, therefore ensuring sustainability of the campaign.
- Mobilize resources for the provision of materials and other logistics for continuous sensitization of members of the Christian Religious Groups.
When these Christian Religious groups are empowered accordingly, they in turn become crusaders of the campaign in their various Churches, families, kindred’s, villages and communities.
Some of the benefit of empowering Christian Religious Groups are highlighted below;
- Empowering Christian Religious Groups to campaign against FGM will reach a very wide audience because the members groups are readily available and cut across gender, age, marital status, etc.
- Partnering with Christian Religious Groups is cost-effective because the members are volunteers and will their work within the time of their normal Church activities.
- There will be easy dissemination of information to the community because each member of the Christian Religious Groups will, easily, take the messages to other family members, even if they belong to different faith groups.
- Advocacy is a vital key to ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria; therefore training members of these Christian Religious Groups will result in a proliferation of #endFGM advocates in the intervention communities.
- When these Christian Religious Groups are empowered just like in the “Ending Child Pregnancy Campaign”, they will champion the campaign because they will understand that the sustenance of the campaign will save millions of lives.
The major work of the Christian Religious Groups, besides providing basic information about FGM, is to remind their members that “FGM is against Christian teachings” and cite the relevant portions in the Bible (e.g. Genesis 17:10-14, Joshua 5:7) .
We are optimistic that, by the time over 48.3% of Nigerians that are Christians receive the message and understand the importance of ending FGM, it will accelerate the abandonment of the practice in the country.
As we champion this campaign to end FGM, let us also remember that we have a duty to protect the girl-child and woman from harmful traditional practices. Therefore, you and I need to become advocates to #endcuttinggirls in this generation.
In conclusion, the Church remains a major platform in the campaign for an FGM-free society, empowering the Christian Religious Groups in our Churches as advocates is pivotal in the #endFGM campaign. This brings us to the end of today twitter conference. Thanks for Joining u! It’s question time.
29. To learn more about the @endcuttinggirls Campaign, please visit www.endcuttinggirls.org for information. You may also follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls