TWEET CONFERENCE SCRIPT: Community Dialogue: A platform for developing an agenda for ending FGM – 09.05.2019


Community dialogues provide a platform to engage community members including parents, adolescents, and community leaders in discussions issues affecting the lives of Community members and how to address them in their community.

Through community dialogues, community members will explore ways to address their challenges such as improving their healthcare seeking behaviours and using modern health care services and products.

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. @WHO

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.

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 http://www.who.int or watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s @WHO

In order to eliminate the practice of FGM, the Phase I of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C Abandonment: Accelerating Change (UNJP) was conceived and implemented, in 15 countries, from 2008 to 2012.  From January 2014 to December 2017, the Phase II of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C Abandonment: Accelerating Change (UNJP) was implemented, in 17 countries, including Nigeria.

The Phase III of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change commenced in January 2018. It is being implemented in 16 countries including Nigeria, and will end by December 2021.

The goal of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme is to contribute to the acceleration of the total abandonment of FGM within a generation in line with United Nation General Assembly Resolution A/RES/67/146 to “intensify global efforts to eliminate FGM.

As the largest global programme addressing FGM, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM plays a critical role in achieving Target 5.3 which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices by 2030, under the Sustainable Development Goal 5. The UN Joint Programme adopts a holistic and multi-sectoral approach that supports ending FGM at household, community, national and global levels with focus on policy/legal reforms, girls/women empowerment, service provision and improved policy/programming: to achieve Output 2 of the UNJP, “Improved community and interpersonal engagement to address and amplify social and gender norms transformation”, practicing communities need to develop agendas for ending FGM through the process of “community dialogue”.

Community dialogue is a process of joint problem identification and analysis leading to modification and redirection of community and stakeholders’ actions towards a preferred future for all.

Community dialogue is based on the following two main principles, which are        Problem based adult learning and Negotiation (dialogue is a process of bargaining, give and take)

The main objective of community dialogue is to generate response from communities and individuals that result into commitment to addressing the identified problems/gaps in a participatory manner.  It also aims to achieving the objectives below:

  • Generating deeper understanding of the nature of the epidemic among individuals and communities in order to influence change.
  • Surfacing common issues and the resources to address them, (helps identify barriers to positive change and uncover innovative ideas).
  • Building a pool of resource persons with transformative leadership abilities and facilitation skills to scale up the community response to FGM/C and other related development issues.
  • Providing a forum for the unheard to be heard.
  • Promoting social contacts among various groups in the community.
  • Promoting self-esteem, self-confidence, tolerance, trust, accountability, introspection and self-management.
  • Promoting ownership and accountability.

Organising a community dialogue has several benefits, which are listed below;

  1. community dialogue helps to identify and enlist key individuals for sustainable partnerships.
  2. community dialogue helps solicit community participation, support and commitment in problem solving for sustainable behaviour change.
  3. community dialogue promotes sharing of information and ideas between individuals of different cadres and backgrounds.
  4. community dialogue facilitates joint community assessment to identify community problems and effective solutions.
  5. community dialogue promotes deeper understanding of communities, their situation, current practices, interests, existing opportunities and challenges for sustainable behaviour change.  
  6. community dialogue promotes skills building of the facilitator in the development and maintenance of effective dialogue with the community in order to facilitate joint decision making and problem solving for sustainable behaviour change.
  7. community dialogue helps to generate local media attention.
  8. community dialogue helps leaders of all sectors to recognize their roles in building sustainable healthy communities.
  9. community dialogue promotes accountability and ownership of agreed interventions

The culture of silence around the issue of FGM is one of the many reasons that keep the practice alive and underground.  

FGM is wrapped around religious and cultural beliefs with 6 levels of problem in short and long term categories which is not limited to health and psychological disorder. It must be noted that the practice has no basis in both major religions in Nigeria and predates both the pre-Islamic and Christian era.

The problem of FGM has been normalized and labelled with sacredness all because the culture of silence pervades the air  

The effects of FGM include severe bleeding, injury to genital tissues, shock, urinary retention, keloids, death, etc., the effects ranges from the types practiced.

To the issue of FGM as a form of gender based violence has long been established, and in some societies the practice has been abolished.  

It is much difficult to fight the practice in communities where it’s culturally and socially acceptable mostly because of the refusal to approach the issue and the first step to fixing a problem is talking about it.

The culture of silence discourages communities and survivors from opening up about FGM. Without the testimonies of FGM survivors on their diverse side effects and health damages they face. In a culture of silence, the communities would remain unaware of the negative effects of FGM and may not realise that they have the potential to end the practice.  

In communities where there’s the conspiracy of silence FGM survivors treat and handle the long-term effects secretly and personally without support.

The FGM survivors may not access the services (health, legal and social) that are available and end up suffering in silence, because everyone if afraid to break the silence around the practice Community dialogue goes a long way in creating a support system for girls and women living with the effects of FGM

It exposes the effects and damages of the practice not only individually, but generally, giving room for public sensitizations hereby encouraging reorientation on the issue of FGM/C

In order to effectively facilitate community discussions, the facilitator must have good listening skills.

The facilitators must also help to set and follow ground rules for participation in the dialogue.

Establishing rules during community dialogue helps to create a safe environment for openness and sharing. At the end of the dialogue, the facilitator should ask participants to develop an action plan on how they will initiate activities to end FGM in their communities based on the new information they have gotten from the dialogue.

The activities listed in the action plan are community-level initiatives to end Female Genital Mutilation, which can be implemented by the community members with or without external support. The activities in the action plan can be built into some of the communities existing events such as new yam festivals, annual women’s meeting, age grade meetings, youth gatherings, religious meetings, etc.

With the development of the community action plan, the next step is to ensure that every community member is aware of the plan using the social groups and other means of communication.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme has implemented a lot of community dialogues to end FGM in the focus communities where it is operating in Nigeria through their state partners. The community dialogue sessions organized by the UN Joint Programme helped communities to develop plans that led to public declarations of FGM in some of the focus communities in the five states (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo)

In conclusion, community dialogue creates a platform for developing agenda to end Female Genital Mutilation in their communities.  

At this point, I will end the presentation to give room for questions and contributions from participants. Thank you all for reading our tweets

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

Together we will end FGM in this generation.

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