FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Partnering with Education Sector as strategic partner in the campaign to EndFGM in this generation – 27.09.2019

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. 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.

FGM has short terms and long term effects on the health and well-being of girls and women. Short term effects of FGM include: severe pain, excessive bleeding, shock, genital tissue swelling, infections, while the long term effects include chronic genital infections, urinary tract infections, painful urination, keloids, perinatal risks, etc.

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM  practice violates women and girls’ rights to health, security and physical integrity, rights to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and rights to life (when the procedure results in death)

For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int or watch

FGM practice is strongly rooted in the people’s culture and so, it has not been an easy task in getting people to abandon the practice despite the harmful effects on girls and women.

It is estimated that about 200 million girls/women have undergone FGM and about 3 million girls/women per year are at risk.  Unless action to end FGM is accelerated, another 68 million girls will have been cut by 2030 (Antonio Guterres – UN Sec. Gen.)

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). 

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), and these communities are composed of parents, students, teachers, school administrators and traditional/religious leaders and each school has one.

Community education communities (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 2013 NDHS in Nigeria shows 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/students 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 girls) are less likely to allow their mothers cut them or subject their future daughters to FGM.

If EndFGM advocates are inducted amongst pupils, they should be well guided and should also commit to some actions. These two actions are listed below…

  1. Respectfully educate parents, senior family members, religious leaders and health professionals on the potential harmful effects of FGM.
  2. Support and engage in village/community campaigns (they should be guided by parents), which aim to change social norms at the community level instead of only individual attitudes.

Virtually every school in Nigeria have school clubs and mainstreaming EndFGM into their activities will help strengthen the campaign against FGM, it keeps reminding the students on reasons why they shouldn’t support the act, what they should do when they see anyone standing the risk of been cut.

Not only that, a topic consistently discussed becomes a norm amidst them and anything that looks like it becomes a taboo to them and that’s because it’s a talk they hear every time, the teacher once taught on it, the club members presented on it and the drama students once acted a drama on the subject matter.

Last year (2018) UNICEF Supported School based #endFGM activities in some selected secondary schools in from the five project states (Osun, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo and Oyo State). The project targeted young secondary school students.

It was as a result of school based activities such as this that provided an opportunity for a student to refuse to be cut, which initiated the events that led to the  first ever public declaration of FGM in Nigeria by the people of Izzi Clan in Ebonyi State. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kevlo0KXJQE .

Because of the recent happenings in FGM practicing communities where Girls travel outside their states to present themselves for FGM secretly due to peer pressure, targeting school clubs can help reduce such pressure.

UNICEF is still partnering with existing school clubs across the five project states to build their capacity through life skill training for in and out of school girls.   

The Life Building skill Progarmme will empower Students will to the elimination of harmful practices as proposed by Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UNJP has commenced Phase III (2018-2021). The vision is to “contribute to the elimination of FGM by 2030”.  The goal is “to accelerate efforts towards the reduction of FGM, fulfilling the rights of girls and women by realizing social and gender norms transformation by 2021”. 

The four expected outcomes of Phase III of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM are:

  • Outcome 1: Countries have an enabling environment for the elimination of FGM practices at all levels and in line with human rights standards.
  • Outcome 2: Girls and women are empowered to exercise and express their rights by transforming social and gender norms in communities to eliminate FGM.
  • Outcome 3: Girls and women access appropriate, quality and systemic services for FGM prevention, protection and care.
  • Outcome 4: Countries have better capacity to generate and use evidence and data for policymaking and improving programming.

When the capacity of school clubs in are built on the area of ending FGM, Schools with Press and Debate club can come up with inter class debate on topics on FGM? 

Also the press clubs can organize a writing or speech or poem contest on the subject matter, student tends to believe their own research more than what they were ordinarily told.  The school art club can organize a poster competition which can be inter class or even interschool, some people get communicated to more with images and music that writing or even what they were told.

The school newscasters can adopt a closing statement that they will always close their news with, words like this that is always repeated every time they listen to the school newscasters can help it become a norm faster.

Before I end the presentation, its good we Note that FGM is treated as a harmful traditional practice under Physical and health Education in the Junior Secondary School Curriculum in Nigeria.

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 also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @endcuttinggirls. Don’t forget subscribe to our YouTube channel via https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg?sub_confirmation=1 for educational videos on FGM.  .

Together, we will end female genital mutilation in this generation. .

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