FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: “Strengthening campaign to end FGM through Arts and Entertainment” – 29th October 2019

Conversations around music, storytelling, film production and other forms of art as strategic media for ending #FGM are very vital as the deliberate production of these art forms tailored to pass the message on the Effects of FGM will help push the cause farther. Considering a production force of approximately 50 movies weekly with almost double that number of songs, and an audience that cuts across all classes of people, the Nigerian film and music industry is undoubtedly an asset that must be maximized in ending FGM.

In Nigeria, “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” has adopted ARTs and Entertainment (Theatre, Music, Nollywood, etc) as tools for the elimination of FGM.

Before we go further with this conference, I’d like us to revisit what FGM is for the sake of those that are joining us for the first time.  

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. #endcuttingirls

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).

In Nigeria, 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).

For more information about FGM you can visit www.endcuttinggirls.org

The practice of #FGM has thrived in a culture of silence. In a lot of communities where it is practiced there’s an unspoken lock on the lips of victims regarding the negative effects of fgm.  Years of advocacy and research has shown that FGM is often treated with indifference and sometimes feigned ignorance of its existence. This ignorance and indifference is premiered by the culture of silence attached to the practice.

The Nigerian film industry fondly called Nollywood is arguably the largest hub of entertainment in Africa. With a work force of people from all regions, tribes, and religions in Nigeria, Nollywood is undoubtedly an attractive partner in the fight to End FGM. The industry is known to produce movies that carry vital information and lessons for all who see them and so leveraging on this as well as its popularity would help spark conversations about #FGM in all households, communities, rural and urban settlements.

The production of relative stories through films would encourage survivors in practicing communities to talk more about the effects of the practice especially in their lives and lives of loved ones.  While some cutters may be ignorant of the adverse and long term effects of #FGM movies that carry the message would serve as a medium and tool of education and enlightenment.

Movies on community declarations featuring the collective abandonment of FGM in rural communities alike should also be promoted. Movies like this would not only spark conversations in homes but in the community at large.

Further familiarity with the message of the adverse effects of FGM,  is a sure step towards mass reorientation and education, which would prepare families to make better decisions regarding the practice of FGM.

On how music is can also be a powerful tool; Music has the power to infiltrate the consciousness of an entire generation of people and influence their emotions and eventually, their actions. Music can unite groups and help them stay strong together to achieve a common goal.

The use of music in communities for rituals such as coronation, naming ceremonies, and rites of passage events including FGM predates literacy. It therefore can also be used to promote positive changes in these communities. Music is so powerful that one song, one right song, about FGM can reach and compel millions of people in Nigeria and across the world, causing social actors to unite under a common cause to End FGM.

Other forms of art that can be beneficial to this initiative include:

  • Mouth to mouth storytelling: a good number of us would remember stories that we were told as children and the morals that we drew from them. Imagine a generation of people who have been told stories about the harmful effect of FGM from their childhood?
  • Drawings/Paintings: Art works have been known to evoke certain emotions without using words. Paintings can be made to tell stories. Stories of the pain and struggles that come with FGM.
  • Creative competitions: Game shows and competitions have over time become a source of entertainment for people. Schools, churches, and even communities can come together to organise competitions (singing, dancing, etc) that push the agenda of FGM abandonment.

Additionally, in our of our Tweet conference held Thursday, 17th October 2019 The anchor @_chzy in her tweets highlighted some of the importance of Music as a powerful tool for mobilizing Communities to end FGM, as follows:
The use of music in communities for rituals such as coronation, naming ceremonies, and rites of passage events including FGM predates literacy. Music therefore can also be used to promote positive changes in FGM practicing communities.
Song writing competition for in and out of school youths within the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM: Accelerating Change” focal communities would help develop unique music for such communities.

Creating play songs for growing children with the message to end FGM will embed this message in the fabric of the DNA of the next generation. I know I still remember songs I played to as a child, the only definition I remember from my junior secondary school days are the ones I made into songs. ‘Social Studies’ was a bore for me so I added music to my notes.

Dance dramas with compelling wordless music can be created by community members. This kind of music has the power to make audience pay attention and get drawn into the message, owning the message as they have to put words to the drama and music themselves.

Music has always been a powerful educational tool. We have established in previous topics on this conference that education is a vital key in ending FGM in this generation. Here is a link to the transcript on the conferences edition on education.

Music as a tool of change is an inexhaustible topic, but we will have to stop here to give room for questions. While waiting for said questions, I will be posting examples of songs written and sung for the purpose of accelerating change across the globe.

In conclusion, the role that Art and Entertainment have to play in the cause to End Female Genital Mutilation cannot be overemphasised or undermined. It is our hope that this industry puts in more effort to see that they play their part in this campaign.

Thank you for joining in this month. I would pause now to take your questions.  

For more information, please visit www.endcuttinggirls.org also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @endcuttinggirls. Don’t forget to 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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