According to WHO, the term “Female Genital Mutilation” refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Basically, FGM is carried out by different people for so many different reasons. However, various researches have proven that none of the reasons to be unjustifiable. While most people carry out the practice on baby girls few days after birth, others do it during puberty while others even do it before marriage.
We have had of communities where women who were not cut during their lifetime must be cut even before they are buried. Basically, there are 4 different types of FGM as classified by World Health Organization (WHO).
FGM Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The 2 subdivisions are, FGM Type Ia: removal of the prepuce/clitoral hood (circumcision) and FGM Type Ib: removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.
FGM Type II: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision). The 3 subdivisions are of FGM Type II are; FGM Type IIa: removal of the labia minora only; FGM Type IIb: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora; and FGM Type IIIc: partial or total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora.
FGM Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the 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). The 2 subdivisions are, FGM Type IIIa: removal and appositioning the labia minora with or without excision of the clitoris; and FGM Type IIIb: removal and appositioning the labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris.
The last type is the 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.
FGM of any type is a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways. FGM practice is strongly rooted in culture and tradition; it has not been an easy task in getting people to abandon the practice despite the harmful effects on girls and women.
Generally, a pupil refers to a young learner, usually those who are in secondary school and below, while a student refers to learners who are enrolled in a college or university. For the sake of these conference, we will limit our view to children and teenagers.
The females amongst these group of persons (pupil) are more prone to being cut and good orientation and education on the practice of FGM would enable them to speak out from being cut or speak out when their sisters are to be cut.
There is direct link between FGM and education and this has posed as one of the leading tools towards eradicating the practice of FGM.
In the regard of FGM and education, the program advisor for USAID Somalia MaryBeth McKeever said that advocacy should be focused on community education communities (CECs). “These communities are composed of parents, students, teachers, school administrators and traditional/religious leaders and each school has one.
These CECs have been instrumental in increasing girls’ education and can help these pupil and students make informed choices on decisions that will impact their health, education and lives. The connection between FGM and education is twofold: education and awareness about the practice and its risks and general educational attainment.
Teaching pupil and students about the dangers of FGM is a powerful tool in changing public opinion and reversing the trend. However, the importance of overall education may seem less clear.
The International Center for Research on Women published a report on FGM and education that stated 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.”
Several persons are yet to come to terms with the significant relevance of educating these students as a powerful tool to eradicating the practice of FGM.
This was so evident in the research conducted on mothers by International Center for Research. This research shows that women are less likely to have their daughters cut as their level of education rises.
Education exposes students, male and female, to a variety of competing ideas and concepts and a broader worldview. This allows them to make more informed decisions regarding their own reproductive health and agency.
This emphasizes on the need for school-based interventions and further highlights the important role (s) that schools can play in ending this practice. Educating pupils can also give them the freedom to make decisions to improve their lives, which has deep social implications.
By imparting literacy, education also facilitates the pupil’s access to information about social and legal rights and welfare services.
Learning to read and write can bring greater confidence and agency to identify and challenge inequality throughout society. .
For instance, just as with FGM, low levels of education are a significant risk factor in perpetuating and experiencing intimate partner violence so the earlier these pupils are informed the better it is for the society.
To further buttress this, the DHS program of 2016 showed that women (which includes female pupil/students) with higher levels of education are less likely to have undergone female genital mutilation.
The importance of empowering pupils as FGM advocates is an important tool that cannot be overemphasized. We will briefly discuss on strategies that can work in empowering/ equipping these pupils.
Possession of right education resources is the first pathway towards achieving our aim. This implies that teachers should be taught and should be able to transfer right knowledge to the pupils. These resources include; .
- Lesson plans on citizenship and PSHE teaching resources which have been carefully structured in order to ease students into sensitive areas of discussion on FGM. Read more here Action Aid: FGM Teaching Resources.
- Lesson plan on raising awareness of the practice of FGM and to educate the young about facts, issues and where to seek help if at risk. Read more here Healthy Schools: KS3 FGM Lesson.
- Lesson plan to help students distinguish between myth and fact. This is a great “ice breaker”, which explores why FGM is perpetuated through such myths and engages pupils on the importance of critical thinking. Read more here Orchid Project – Challenging the Myths.
- The use of the award-winning drama-documentary, “Silent Scream” tells the story of a young Somali girl living in Bristol. Read more here Documentary – “Silent Scream”.
Beyond teaching them, we should endeavor to provide them with IEC materials which will serve as a guide for them when educating their parents, peers or communities.
We should continually increase pupils’ access to education, because educated pupils (boys or girsl) are less likely to allow their mothers cut them or subject their future daughters to FGM/C.
If EndFGM advocates are inducted amongst pupils, they should be well guided and should also commit to some actions. These actions include;
- Respectfully educate parents, senior family members, religious leaders and health professionals on the potential harmful effects of FGM.
- Support and engage in village/community campaigns (they should be guided by paretns), which aim to change social norms at the community level instead of only individual attitudes.
In summary, an educated pupil is a positive hope for eradicating FGM. You are allowed to ask your questions and we would be glad to attend to them all.