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
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
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 non-medical 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 term 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, among others; 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)
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%
To strengthen the
educational sector for provision of FGM prevention services, I suggest a 3
pronged approach of counseling, teaching and reiteration. Each concept will be
discussed in detail as we proceed.
On the counseling
bit, it is important for schools to have trained staffers that are equiped with
requisite knowledge and network to provide counseling services to students that
are at risk of being cut. The counseling service should also extend to
survivors, those being bullied by their peers into submitting to be cut and
students that have witnessed the practice.
There is no doubt
that students in each category mentioned above are not equipped to handle
effectively the pressures of the community and their peers. So also survivors
need counseling and support to be able to overcome the trauma that comes with
To achieve the
point of providing counseling in educational system, it is critical that
counselors and designated teachers should be trained specially on FGM related
issues and counseling. General counseling knowledge may not be sufficient for
the peculiarities associated with FGM. The counselors and designated teachers
also need to have access to protection networks that they can recommend in
We now have a rather troubling scenario where girls in FGM practicing
communities, due to peer pressure, travel outside their states to present
themselves for FGM secretly. Targeting schools and educational facilities can
help reduce such pressure.
The second prong of
strengthening the education sector is teaching. It is important that FGM should
form a part of the curriculum in schools. Particularly in secondary schools.
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 preventing and eradicating the practice of FGM.
This emphasizes the need for school-based interventions, and it
further highlights the important roles that schools can play in ending this
By the education sector to provide the needed information, it
facilitates the pupil’s access to information about social and legal rights and
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. I will briefly talk about
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 at 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 at 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 –
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.
Reiteration is the third prong of the approach for strengthening the
provision of FGM prevention services through the education sector. This can be
done through peer to peer engagement using existing clubs and groups. It can
also be done through drama, simulations, role plays, discussions, contest, etc.
If pupils are inducted as #endcuttinggirls advocates, they would be
well equipped and should also commit to some actions. Actions which include but
not limited to; respectfully educate parents, senior family members, religious
leaders and health professionals on the harmful effects of FGM, and resist any
attempt to be cut.
Virtually every school in Nigeria have school clubs. Mainstreaming #endcuttinggirls
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 being cut.
As part of this effort, where reporting platforms are available, it is
useful to have students memorize the number to call to access necessary
prevention services, and any other relevant information that will assist
at-risk children to get needed help in real time.
It is also important for students and teachers to simulate at-risk
situations by way of drama and role plays. This can be done either at club
level or as part of the curriculum during teaching. This will help the students
to be well abreast of necessary steps to take when faced with such situations.
In 2018 UNICEF supported school based #endcuttinggirls activities in
some selected secondary schools in the five project States (Osun, Ebonyi,
Ekiti, Imo and Oyo). 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. See
UNICEF is still partnering with existing school clubs across the five
project states to build their capacity through life building skill training for
in and out of school girls.
The Life Building skill Programme is designed to strengthen students
will towards the elimination of harmful practices as proposed by Target 5.3 of
the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UNJP Phase III (2018-2021) has the
vision 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 one of the expected outcomes of Phase III of the UNFPA/UNICEF
Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM is “Outcome 3: Girls and women access
appropriate, quality and systemic services for FGM prevention, protection and
Its important to mention that FGM is treated as a harmful traditional
practice under Physical and health Education in the Junior Secondary School
Curriculum in Nigeria.