FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Partnering with families (nuclear and extended) to EndFGM – 28th January 2020

It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. There is an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year.

FGM impacts on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls and on the enjoyment of their human rights

Female genital mutilation (FGM) otherwise known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is defined as “all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. @WHO

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.

FGM 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.

For additional reading on FGM you can visit http://www.who.int and www.endcuttinggirls.org or watch

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. Family as we all know include both nuclear and extended family. They both play important role in the life of a girl child.  

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.

Grandmothers and Mother-in-law, cousins, Nephew, Niece are part of an extended family. A mother-in-law is the mother of your spouse who could either be the mother of the wife or husband.

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, namely, 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).

A hundred years ago, generations lived together on farms or in urban tenements and everyone pitched in to care for children, put meals on the table and maintain the home.

One of the reasons why the practice of FGM has persisted in some communities is because it is a social-taboo and influenced by cultural, tradition and religion.

These influences include social pressure to conform to peers, perception of FGM as necessary to raise a girl properly and prepare her for adulthood and marriage e.t.c.

In most FGM-practicing communities, the issue of FGM is not an open discussed and this has made most people unaware of the negative consequences of the practice on the health and wellbeing of their girls and women.

In some countries, most families live closely together, making it very easy for them to pass down norms like FGM to the younger generation. This also allows them to have direct impact on every nuclear family.

We are aware of the fact that protecting the child from gender-based violence (GBV) is a responsibility of everyone, we can’t also deny the fact that we must support the nuclear family who are the closest and immediate contact to the child.

It means that the nuclear family is the most important part of the child life and support should be given to them and they should be exposed to the dangers of FGM. Nuclear family is primarily focused on imparting information, education and skills health related interventions about FGM.

Parenting support includes informing and educating parents and this is delivered through home visits, creating educational programme in the community, one-on-one counselling or peer mentoring (this will involve parents passing relevant information about FGM to other parents).

Supporting parents might also come in the form early childhood education, school-parent liaison, family meditation, child protection and family welfare services.

Parents in the religious environments could be targeted and advocates should extend the information and educate them on dangers of FGM.

Health checks on the mother and babies should be considered by EndFGM community champions so as to get adequate information from CBC about FGM and also frequent checks should be made to the parents of the newly born girl child.

Recent World Bank analysis demonstrates that FGM can be reduced, particularly when mothers are better educated.

In a less intensive form, supporting families can come in form of making information available on websites, booklets, television and radio campaigns and telephone help lines.

Family educational programmes should be one of the most important forms of parenting support which can be delivered through different platforms and can cut across all parents irrespective of backgrounds.

Grandmothers and Mother-in-Law are important in every grandchild’s life. Grand parenting styles vary and each individual brings their unique ‘self’ to the experience including culture, ethnicity, gender, race, family traditions, family structure and personal history.

The world has a record-breaking number of grandparents, representing almost 20 percent of the global population. “Today’s grandparents play vital and increasingly indispensable roles in modern family life, contributing to the well-being of generations succeeding them”.

Grandmothers and Mother-in-Laws are family members and form an important element of the extended family. In traditional cultures, grandparents often have a direct and clear role in relation to the care and nurture of children.

Grandmothers and Mother-in-Laws usually exercise their authority on family matters, and their descendants obey them because of their age and position.  This kind of structure gradually eases with the increasing influence of western culture and the increasing number of nuclear families.

Research suggests that children find unique acceptance in their relationships with some extended families, which benefits them emotionally and mentally. They can be a major support during family disruptions. Sometimes they’re playmates. Some of tis extended families are often role models and mentors for younger generations. They are also historians — teaching values, instilling ethnic heritage and passing on family traditions.

Unfortunately, some of this family members are illiterate, or are not conversant with the structures of the modern world, this has in turn affected them in understanding the implications and consequences of FGM but educating them in their Local languages can also help in propagating an end to FGM.

Government, NGOS and various organizations who are dedicated to eliminating FGM should reach out through home visits to parents of newly born girl-child and provide the information and support needed to protect the girl child.

Enabling networks and networking by generating social support amongst parents of girl-child could also be adopted as support for parents in protecting their child against FGM.

Some regions take the communal approach to child rearing, educating and informing people in that region could also serve as a support system to parents.

When we think about , many of us assume that men are holding girls and women back through patriarchal norms. But families have traditionally been one of the greatest hindrances in stopping any norms and reorienting them can help to #endcuttinggilrs

Many grandmothers and Mother-in-Laws, cousins and uncles treat the girl-child in the family in a more relaxed and permissive manner than they even treat their own children. As a result, children often feel more comfortable discussing sensitive issues with them than with their own parents.

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.

A study showed that certain harmful practices are promoted by extended families in various cultures, given the wide-ranging role they play and their influence and intrinsic commitment to promoting the well-being of women and children, they should be viewed as key actors in the campaign to .

Extended families like Grandmother, they have been shown to have a role to play in maintaining culture.  They also have a role in maintaining and nurturing grandchildren to grow up valuing traditional morals and beliefs.

In some families, Grandmothers and Mother-in-Laws can function as Primary Care Givers; Grandmothers and Mother-in-Laws have a prominent and influential role within the family and are commonly in charge of child rearing when the mother is employed, sick or more commonly in our setting.

Societies around the world acknowledge that grandmothers and Mother-in-Laws play an influential role in the socialization, acculturation, and care of children as they grow and develop and in the education and supervision of their daughters and daughters-in-law.  

For example they pass down culture of FGM from generation-to-generation making them believe that its compulsory that a girl should be mutilated, but partnering with them will also help in finding an alternative to some of these harmful cultures, which will now be pass from generation to generations.

Due to their importance listed above, it’s important we partner with families both nuclear and extended to EndFGM, this could be done through Proper Education on the dangers surrounding FGM.

Families have the potential to significantly change the power dynamics within a community – and if they use their influence for good – thereby foregoing old traditions like FGM – these harmful traditional practices will be abandoned.

Partnering with families will help us  in this generation because of their experience and their impact in different communities.

In conclusion partnering with the families (Nuclear and extended) would go a long way to protect the girl child from FGM because they are the immediate contact to the child and they are responsible for the child upbringing.

At this point, I will give room for questions and contributions from participants. Thank you for joining us.

Together we will end FGM in this generation.

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