TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Strengthening the role of the extended family in protecting girls and women from FGM – 23.01.2019

BY DARE OLAGOKE-ADARAMOYE (@dareadaramoye)

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an internationally recognized issue owing to its adverse impacts on physical and psychosocial wellbeing and erosion of sexual and reproductive health rights among women.

Most of the estimated 200 million girls and women living today throughout 29 countries were victims of genital mutilation by the age of 15, making it a global violation of human rights.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM into 4 types. WHO classifies FGM into four categories with subdivisions;

FGM Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The 2 subdivisions are, FGM Type Ia: removal of the prepuce/clitoral hood (circumcision) and FGM 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)

The 3 subdivisions are of FGM Type II are; FGM Type IIa: removal of the labia minora only; FGM Type IIb: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora; and FGM Type IIc: partial or total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora

FGM Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the 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).

The 2 subdivisions are, FGM Type IIIa: removal and a positioning the labia minora with or without excision of the clitoris; and FGM Type IIIb: removal and a positioning the labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris

Type 4 Unclassified; refers to all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, including cauterization, pulling, incision, piercing, pricking, and scrapping for non-medical reasons.

Every year 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to the potential negative health consequences of this harmful practice.

FGM has no known health benefits, and those girls and women who have undergone the procedure are at great risk of suffering from its complications throughout their lives. 

The procedure of FGM is painful and traumatic, and is often performed under unsterile conditions by a traditional practitioner who has little knowledge of female anatomy or how to manage possible adverse events. 

Moreover, the removal of or damage to healthy genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and may cause severe immediate and long-term negative health consequences. 

The practice of FGM is prevalent in 30 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East, but also present across the globe due to international migration.

FGM practice is deeply rooted in a strong cultural and social framework. It is endorsed by the practicing community and is supported by loving parents who believe that undergoing FGM is in the best interest of their daughter. 

The beliefs sustaining the practice of FGM vary greatly from one community to another, although there are many common themes. However, the primary reason is that it is part of the history and cultural tradition of the community. 

Despite its cultural importance, we need to acknowledge the fact that FGM is a harmful traditional practice that violates the rights of girls and women.  Therefore, FGM has to be eliminated. 

The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. 

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.

The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It is also a violation of the right to life when the procedure results in death.

For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int or watch  https://youtu.be/f0-dYD9cYKo

The family is an intimate domestic group made up of people related to one another by bonds of blood, sexual mating or legal ties. It is the smallest and most basic social unit, which is also the most important primary group found in any society.

It is the simplest and most elementary group found in a society. It is a social group consisting of a father, mother and one or more children. It is the most immediate group a child is exposed to.

In fact, it is the most enduring group, which has tremendous influence on the life of an individual, from birth until death. It also accounts for the most enduring social relation­ship found in society.

A family, which is usually made up of people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption, is very important to most Nigerians and Africa at large. 

An extended family is a family that extends beyond the nuclear family, consisting of parents like father, mother, and their children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, all living in the same household.

The family which is extended can be said that as a combination of several nuclear families.

Extended family consists of people who are closely related. They may be living together or in the same vicinity.

There’s an old saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” In cases like these, it is especially true because extended relatives have a significant impact on healthy development in nurturing a child.

They encourage a sense of belonging and a strong support system for parents to reinforce various aspects of discipline.

Growing up, children typically bond with their immediate family members first, such as parents and siblings.

Extended family circle can also provide emotional and physical support if needed. Grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins actively play significant roles in an infant’s life.

It shows that the kid is loved even beyond their own immediate family. It will allow them to learn 3 specific core values: loyalty, responsibility and independency.

Family is one of the most important relationships a person can have in their life. Whether it’s nuclear or extended family relations, it is equally important to maintain and establish strong connections with them.

There are many advantages sustaining this family dynamic. Extended family relations affect the outcome of a child’s behaviour and character. It transmits the principles and practices of modern society in a very saturated way.

Therefore, it gives kids much more experience and exposure on different interest and ideas that are important lessons which parents may not be able to teach (e.g. collective learning of cooperative work, stability, cultural identity and sense of community).

The key characteristic of the extended family is that there are multiple adults in the family that are not parents of the children, though they may also have parent-like roles and share in the responsibilities for providing for the whole family, either by contributing financially or in other ways.

Maintaining positive relationships between children and their extended family members should be encouraged and continued. Failure to do so can result in another loss for the children.

In  contexts  where  FGM  is  a  social  norm,  families  and  individuals uphold  the  practice  because  they  believe  that  their  group  or  society expects them to do so. Abandonment of the practice requires a process of social change that results in new expectations on families.

 The approach of strengthening the role of the extended family in protecting girls and women from FGM will further help the campaign for FGM elimination to happen faster because of the expectations from families where FGM is a Social Norm.

The fact that extended Families are larger in population is a major advantage to reach more people with Key FGM messages and when they accept it, it makes organized diffusion happen fast.

Notable Extended Families who act as role models and influencers can be trained and sensitised on the subject matter and thereafter encouraged to pass on the same messages to their nuclear family and other families in their community.

These Extended families can be engaged through open discussions about problems facing the community such as those emanating from FGM.

Innovative methods such as storytelling and songs can be employed to inform Extended Families on the subject of FGM and its harmful consequences.

This approach will enable Extended Families to identify FGM as a problem and reach consensus on possible solutions that best suit their needs, which can lead to a sustained change in attitude.

Extended Families will be encouraged to strengthen positive cultural traditions and discard harmful ones such as FGM.

This approach will advocate holistic upbringing of women and girls’ intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral, and psychological well-being as an alternative right of passage to FGM

Extended Families having learnt about the dangers of FGM can turn advocates to end the practice and as such influence some other families to stop FGM in their community.

Strengthening extended families will also enable them educate their children not to cut their girls and women. 

Extended have the inherent capacity to help in leading the community to a collective decision towards the abandonment of FGM as families make up the community.

The extended family approach will bridge the cross/inter-generation communication gap with an aim of changing behaviours towards ending FGM.

In addition, extended family members are always consulted in several of their children’s marriage and family affairs. This underlines the overriding need to carry families along in the end FGM campaign.

If converted they can use their influence positively to ensure that all new born girl-children remain uncut.

Various family gatherings can be leveraged on to generally sensitize them about the dangers of FGM.

They can in turn become end FGM advocates which will be a big plus to the campaign.

As we look for solutions to FGM, we must remember that it is not just about eliminating FGM, It is also about empowerment through educating families and the communities at large.

Ending FGM is about raising consciousness so that people can change their attitudes toward this harmful cultural practice.

Women’s self-worth should not be tied to undergoing FGM; rather, women should be respected because of their positive contributions to Nation building.

The elimination of FGM is a health, social, and economic issue to be vigorously pursued by all members of the society.

In conclusion, Extended Families remain major stakeholders in the campaign for a FGM-free society, strengthening and empowering them as advocates is the key.

I will stop here so that I can accommodate and provide answer to your questions.

Together, we will end FGM in this generation.

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