Tweet Conference Transcript: Empowering Children (sons & daughters) as advocates to end FGM in their families – 02.01.2020


Anchor: Ugwu Charles Egede (@charles_clever)

It is a worrisome the fact that at least 200 million girls and women alive today across some 30 countries of the world have undergone FGM.

Gladly, concerted global efforts has seen an overall decline in the prevalence of the practice over the last three decades. Despite this however, FGM persists.

Also worrisome, is the current attitude of many individuals in cutting communities around the world whereby despite being already knowledgeable about FGM and its harmful implications, many still want the practice to continue.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “a human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

Record shows that the capacity of children to serve as social change agents has been undermined. This in my own opinion, may be because they are probably usually considered as young and inexperienced. But on the contrary, can Children actually play a significant role in bringing the practice of FGM to an end, especially if empowered? If yes, how? That will be the center of today’s discussions and I’m glad you are part of it!

FGM refers to any procedure that involves “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”  QWHO

There are different forms of FGM, some of which involve more radical excisions in the genital area than others.

FGM has 4 types, Clitoridectomy; Excision; Infibulation; & Unclassified (e.g. “pressing” the clitoris with hot water)

The origin and significance of FGM practice is shrouded in secrecy, uncertainty and fraught with controversy either as an initiation ceremony of young girls into womanhood or to ensure virginity and curb promiscuity, or to protect female modesty and chastity. #Endcuttinggirls

FGM demonstrates deep-rooted gender inequalities and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is also a serious violation of the rights of girls’ health, security, integrity, dignity, and freedom.

FGM is not required by any religion and there is no scientific evidence that women who have been mutilated are more faithful or better wives than those who have not undergone the procedure.

It is therefore very clear that there is no single benefit derived from FGM and possible medical complications includes but not limited to: severe bleeding, cysts, infections, difficulty urinating, issues with childbirth and even death.

For more information about basic facts about FGM, visit www.endcuttinggirls.org Also do well to follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms for constant updates about the EndFGM campaign.

You can also visit who.int or watch

Elimination of FGM is high on the international agenda, enshrined as target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Efforts to end FGM have been embraced by governments, regional and subregional bodies, media at all levels, and increasingly civil society and social movements.

However, approaches to transform the social norms on FGM have evolved to reflect new learnings. Much more needs to be done to address the deeply held myths and beliefs in these communities.

Nigeria has the highest absolute number of FGM cases in the world according to a report by UNICEF. However, the practice is on a decline amongst those age 15-49years based on NDHS 2018 (20%).

Nigeria topping the list by absolute values of FGM cases shows how common the practice is in the country and because of this, it is necessary to highlight the role that children (sons and daughters) can play to end this practice in their families and beyond. #Endcuttinggirls

Children have the potential to be positive family and community influencers because they are fast learners and have regular access to information through school, social media, peers etc.

Young people are inquisitive, energetic, ready to learn and open-minded. Without doubt, children being empowered as end FGM advocates in their families is pivotal to the efforts to end FGM globally.

Children can influence their parents in making positive decisions regarding their health especially when they are empowered through education, leadership involvement, provision of role models, and giving discrete guidance.

One of the key things that we must first understand about empowerment is that it begins with education, empowering any individual starts with educating them first. There is a direct link between education and ending FGM. Accordingly, education has become one of the leading tools towards eradicating the practice of FGM.

Good enough, topics around FGM are already being integrated into school curriculum in Nigerian. The inclusion of this topic has removed the taboo around FGM, and young people are now receiving accurate information in schools.

This inclusion in the curriculum is helping to break the culture of silence around FGM and other harmful traditional practices (HTPs) in Nigeria.

Teaching children about the dangers of FGM is therefore proven to be a powerful tool in changing public opinion and reversing the trend.

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.

Beyond teaching children about FGM, we should endeavor to provide them with educational 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 End FGM advocates are inducted amongst pupils, they should be well guided and should also commit to some actions which includes to respectfully educate parents and senior family members on the potential harmful effects of FGM.

Empowering children to communicate health messages can also be an inexpensive way to market a health intervention and can influence families’ health practices through knowledge dissemination.

The school remains the major platform to sensitize these children and build their capacities to become end FGM advocates in their various families.

Supporting young people to mainstream FGM discussions, debates and other activities into their school club activities is also a good way of enhancing their capacities and boost their confidence as end FGM advocates beyond the school premises.

No doubt, not all children are in school, but those in school can also be used to reach their counterparts who are not in school who happen to also be their peers within their communities. This they can achieve by engaging in discussions with them and stepping down what they have learnt to them.

Such campaign to sensitize and build the capacities of children as end FGM advocates should be interactive and fun. Children are likely to remain active in projects that are interesting and fulfilling.

Some other factors that can be influential in promoting communication for children include motivation, confidence and ability to communicate.

Because young people are predominantly affected, if sensitized they can help end this practice by engaging in awareness dialogues with their parents whom cultural beliefs and societal pressure force to let their girl children go through this painful procedure #Endcuttinggirls

By increasing children’s awareness of the reality and severity of FGM, they can become strong end FGM advocates within their families and beyond.

Beyond education and sensitization of these children on FGM, their role to serve as advocates in their families should be clearly highlighted to them.

The ability of these children to highlight the harmful health implications of FGM to their parents, and explain to them that girls who do not undergo FGM grow up to be healthy women and no less female than girls who undergo FGM, would go a long way is changing the mindset of parents that still practice FGM.

In Nigeria, the prevalence of FGM for girls aged 0-14 is 19.2%, while that of women aged 15-49 is 20% (NDHS 2018).

It is thus important to first educate and orient our girls on the concept of FGM.  This would enable them to speak out if anyone wants to subject them to FGM, and also speak out when their sisters/nieces/aunties are threatened with FGM.

There is also need to carry the male children along as they can also help speak to their parents or even cry out when their sisters in the family is about being subjected to FGM.

By and large children (sons and daughters) also need to be aware of where they can run to when they or other females are being forced to undergo FGM.

Actually, for these children to carry out this EndFGM advocacy effectively in their families, an environment must be created in which the child will feel comfortable and safe. There should be resource centers and mechanism put in place such as telephone help lines to support these children if they have any challenge on the course of the EndFGM advocacy.

Government and civil society organizations working on FGM should be prepared to equip and support them to ensure an effective campaign. .

This mechanism paid off in Ebonyi state when a teenager, Njideka Mbam and two other girls, resisted the plans to subject them to FGM because they learnt about the harmful effects of FGM in School and the Church. Njideka’s stance led to a chain of events that led to a public declaration of the abandonment of FGM by the 26 communities in the Izzi Clan of Ebonyi State, Nigeria. The report is captured in the 2017 Annual Report of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM. 

There are so many reasons why children have to be involved in ending Female Genital Mutilation. 

The number of children in the world is increasing daily, especially in developing countries. They can also contribute to shaping the future in social and economic development, challenging social norms and values to end FGM.

Organizations working on FGM should train children on life building skills to prepare them for dealing with adults and build their confidence to always speak in front of adults.

Let children know that their involvement and contribution to #EndFGM are important and valued. Let them also understand clearly the role they can play to stamp out this practice from their families.

It may take time and effort to empower children to become end FGM advocates within their families and beyond; but it will be worth it.

a. In summary, children when empowered offer positive hope for eradicating FGM.

b. When empowerment programs like the sensitization of different schools is deliberately created as a strategy for social change, then we can be assured of positive changes sooner than later.

The complete eradication of FGM may take some time. But it cannot withstand the force of collective action and social evolution. Our work is to accelerate its inevitable demise.

As we all come together, in solidarity, to support the #EndFGM campaign, we must note that our children (sons and daughters) if empowered, can play great roles in stamping out this harmful practice from their family and communities.

It’s time to hear and respond to your questions and/or opinions based on the conference. Keep them coming. .

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