TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Theatre for Development (TFD): A tool for breaking the silence around #FGM – 03.10.2019

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.

FGM 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.

FGM 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.

FGM 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)

FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who play other central roles in communities, such as Traditional Birth Attendants.  

In many settings, health care providers perform FGM due to the erroneous belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized.

The medicalization of FGM refers to “situations in which the procedure (including re-infibulation) is practised by any category of health-care provider, whether in a public or a private clinic, at home or elsewhere, at any point in time in a woman’s life”.

Healthcare providers who agree to perform FGM are violating the fundamental medical ethical principle or duty of non-maleficence (“do no harm”) and the fundamental principle of providing the highest quality health care possible. 

FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

For more information about FGM you can visit or watch

FGM remains widespread in Nigeria with regional and ethnic variations in prevalence.  According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2016 -2017), 18.4% of women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 27% (2011).  Conversely, the FGM prevalence among daughters aged 0-14 years rose from 19.2% (2011) to 25.3% (2016-2017). 

 The reason for practicing FGM include to 1) Enhance Fertility: 2) Respect for Tradition: 3) Rite Of Passage; 4) Social Convention; 5) Marriageability; 6) Ensure Virginity, Chastity and Faithfulness; 7) Cleanliness; 8) Femininity; and 9) Religion.

FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. This aspect, and the fact that FGM is an embedded sociocultural practice, has made its complete elimination extremely challenging.

The “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” is being implemented to end FGM in 16 countries including Nigeria.  It commences in 2008, while Nigeria joined in 2014. Phase III began in Jan. 2018 and will end by Dec. 2021.  The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM is playing a mammoth role in achieving Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goal, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices by 2030, under Goal 5 of the SDGs.

In Nigeria, one of the strategies adopted by the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” is Theatre for Development. We shall discuss the process and how it can pay a vital role in the campaign to end FGM.

Theatre for Development (TFD) refers to a community-based or participatory theatre practice aimed at promoting dialogue on social and development issues  

Through TFD, communities can be empowered, key information can be shared, and problems can be solved. 

UNICEF defines the primary objective for TFD as the promotion of civic dialogue within the communities in order to stimulate social debates.

TFD has been utilized in several intervention program across different countries, with positive results. More rural areas in Guinea through inclusion of several radio stations in TFD efforts, were able to overcome a communication barrier aiding in curtailing the spread of the Ebola virus.  Social media and theatre outlets were used as key tools in raising HIV/AIDS awareness amongst youths in Botswana.

In the context of #FGM, similar ventures for improving communication in hard to reach areas and across hard to reach groups are being explored.

A stage drama on FGM Abandonment was presented at the Public Declaration of FGM Abandonment by the Izzi clan of Ebonyi state

During community activities like public declarations and other traditional ceremonies, dramas, jingles, etc, can be used to break communication barriers with regard to

Tools of theatre for development serve to both captivate the audience via storytelling in a relatable manner, and also pass on key messages that go a long way in shaping the way the audience approach issues around FGM

The processes of TFD include; Conceptualizing, writing, producing and performing; It is important to have an outline of what you want to happen, what direction the story should take and how it will be realized

  • Art, music, song, dance; It is important to select a expression that connects best with the audience  and best suits the actors
  • Analyzing problems; it is important to address the problem and explore it from different angles that will reflect the audience, without losing the key messages to
  • Audience; it is important to have a representation of all the key influencers in FGM situations; children engaging with adults and other children, community leaders, parents and family members.  
  • It is also important to include key figures and leaders in all processes of TFD, as their input and continued involvement ensures ease of proceedings, with every player on the same page

In this video, Students from Osun state, bid farewell to FGM in a bid to EndFGM 

Not only do the participants in these productions share important messages to , they also are able to voice their opinions and thoughts through creative expression.

TFD has been a key tool in FGM intervention as a means to include more community actors in the campaign to  #endFGM

Dramas can be utilized by school-aged children, radio jingles by workers going about their day, short skits by families enjoying leisure times in front of the TV and many more.

Secondary school kids share an inspired song on FGM abandonment

Little girl sings about FGM abandonment

As a form of entertainment-education, TFD will continue to be an immense tool for communicating the dangers and legal implications of carrying out FGM at all levels and for all audiences

Survivors of FGM can also get useful information via TFD, and reporting guidelines amongst communities can be shared as well.

I will end the presentation at this point, please send in your questions and comments lets discuss further on how we can  in our communities using TFD.

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

Thank you all for your participation and don’t forget to join us again next week .

Together, we will end FGM in this generation.

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