TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT : Enhancing the role of Teachers as EndFGM Advocates in Nigeria – 05.09.2019

In Nigeria today, Communities are coming out to openly declare abandonment of FGM which is known as “Public Declaration of FGM Abandonment.” Public declaration of FGM abandonment is not the end of FGM in a community but a means to and end of the practice.

Public declaration of FGM abandonment also means that a community has taking a stand that FGM is no more part of their culture and tradition and anyone found still practicing FGM is going against the laws of such community.

On 19th June 2017 the custodians “Ishiukes” of custom in Izzi clan, Ebonyi State, Nigeria led a historic massive end FGM Pubic Declaration. This was the first of it’s kind in the country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kevlo0KXJQE

Apart from the historic Izzi public declaration, more have also happened in other states across the nation such as:- Osun, Imo and Oyo State. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO0utLYwIaM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iecGvewbU6o

It has been observed that Girls from communities where FGM public declaration has been made, now travel outside their states to present themselves for FGM secretly.

To resolve this developing challenge in the Campaign to end FGM, the involvement of teachers in the campaign is highly needed. .

FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation, and is defined as all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. There are four types of FGM, as classified by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1997 and subdivided in 2008, and they are:

Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). Subdivisions of FGM Type I are: FGM Type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only and FGM 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). Subdivisions of FGM Type II are: IIa, removal of the labia minora only; IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; and 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). Subdivisions of FGM Type III are: FGM Type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; and FGM 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 non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, pulling, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with or at risk of suffering the associated negative health consequences of FGM

Every year 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to the potential negative health consequences of this harmful practice.

FGM has no known health benefits, and those girls and women who have undergone the procedure are at great risk of suffering from its complications throughout their lives.

The procedure of FGM is painful and traumatic, and is often performed under unsterile conditions by a traditional practitioner who has little knowledge of female anatomy or how to manage possible adverse events. @WHO

Moreover, the removal of or damage to healthy genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and may cause severe immediate and long-term negative health consequences. @WHO

For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int and www.endcuttinggirls.org or watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s

FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15 which means that educating young girls on the danger of FGM where they learn and play can help stop the new challenge facing activist working to #endFGM in Nigeria.

FGM can hinder and even end a girl’s education due to the complications endured by girls following the practice including health issues, pain and distress, which can cause girls to be less focused in school or absent and consequently perform poorly and drop out of school (GIZ, 2011b).

It has also been stated that in some areas (e. g Sierra Leone), girls are forced to drop out of school following the procedure as their parents have had to pay a high cost for the FGM ceremony and thereby cannot or are reluctant to continue paying for the education of their daughter (GIZ, 2011b).

To see to it that girls do not travel outside their communities/states to get themselves mutilated, there is need to enhance the capacity of teachers to help educate students about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation.

Integrating FGM into formal and non-informal education curriculum, the topic is less of a taboo and girls can receive accurate information to allow them to make their own independent decisions.

Teachers should be trained to provide knowledge on FGM and sessions on the topic should be delivered in an open manner which allow individuals to exchange experiences and feelings in a safe environment.

Teachers, facilitators and youth workers should receive training so that they can educate young people and also support those at risk of undergoing the procedure, or those that have already undergone the procedure.

Teachers should be taught to know the behavioral warning signs that could indicate a child at risk of FGM.

When there are school safety policies in place, it’s easier to identify and address behaviors that violate the policies or seem to push the boundaries.

However, regardless of whether there are established policies, it’s important to discuss behaviors that seem inappropriate or borderline, and to recognize when a situation is risky and needs a response.

All states have laws that require certain professionals to report suspected cases of abuse such as FGM to the police or to child protective services.

Laws vary by state, but teachers and child care providers are almost always legally mandated to report suspected child abuse cases such as FGM.

As FGM is a sensitive and emotive subject it is essential that a safe and enabling environment is created. This will ensure that girls are able to learn, explore and discuss sensitive issues and learn where to access further help and support relating to FGM.

Schools should have a whole schools approach to dealing with FGM. This approach should include:-

  • A comprehensive safeguarding procedure that includes FGM.

  • Training (as part of safeguarding or child protection) for teachers to identify signs that a girl may be at risk of or have already undergone FGM.

  • Ensuring that the designated member of staff with responsibility for safeguarding children is well versed in the issues around FGM.

  • Identified organisations or establishments to provide support (physical and emotional) for girls who may have undergone the practice.

  • Circulation and display of materials about FGM, including support services that girls can access in schools.

Teachers should be aware that some of the students may be directly or indirectly affected by the content of the FGM lesson.

Teachers should always be mindful that there may be girls who have undergone FGM in their class. As such the topic should be dealt with sensitively and no assumptions should be made.

It is also essential that signposting for support services is included in all FGM lessons and discussions.

Teachers should advocate to their school authorities for the establishment of Health Peer Clubs where Girls can discuss issues around FGM freely.

The School Health Peer club can play a big role in discouraging girls who are planning to travel outside their States/Communities for FGM through peer influence.

In conclusion, if the role of teachers as endFGM advocates is enhanced, girls will no longer submit themselves for FGM in Nigeria and other parts of the world.

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

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

Together we will end FGM in this generation.

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