TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Protecting girls and women from FGM through the “Neighbourhood watch” approach” – 30th January, 2020.

Anchor: Sarumi Abayomi T.” (@aatsarumi)

In many cases, we ignore the effect of our social norms in the grand scheme of things in and around our communities.

There are other times that we consider doing many things just because we are worried about the thoughts of people around us without trying to find out what they expect of us.

The statements above, with the establishment that female genital mutilation is a social norm, further strengthens the fact that the community, society and in the least, family, is essential to achieving a society that doesn’t mutilate.

Given the above, our twitter conference today will look at how we can end FGM by the year 2030 as part of the SDG using “neighbourhood watch approach”.

In 1997, WHO defined Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons  

The WHO classified FGM into 4 types based on process and extent of mutilation with sub divisions;

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.

Several studies have shown that the practice of FGM has no known benefit to the survivors, family or the society at large

Every year, 3 million girls and women are subjected to one form of FGM or another.  

It is also important to note that 200 million people have been impacted for the practice of FGM in the 30 countries where it is practiced.  

It is for this reason that efforts are in top gear to ensure that we protect girls and women, and also prevent further harm coming to the usually vulnerable group

In today’s conference, our focus is on how community members can be actively involved in the processes that seek to end the practice

This will be done in line with each community’s inherent practices and beliefs that alienates no one.

Generally, neighbourhood watch is a community driven initiative that builds on the attributes of the people domiciled in the community

Neighbourhood watch work well because it focuses on the comparative strength of the people in the community usually for protection (and prevention) of activities (crime, social issues) that the people have jointly identified

Neighbourhood Watch combats the predetermined issues in the most effective way – before it starts – by reducing the opportunities for crime to occur .

Neighbourhood Watch is a community-based crime prevention scheme that relies on residents acting together to reduce or prevent crime through surveillance of their neighbourhood.  

 It has also been used in many other cases to prevent and/or forestall anti-social behaviour in the communities.

As established earlier, the practice of female genital mutilation is a social norm which is deeply rooted in the beliefs of practising communities.

Neighbourhood watch has traditionally worked by setting up local groups of neighbours with common shared aims, who are encouraged to become members of a scheme

In the quest of the United Nations Joint Programme to , @unicef_nigeria has created various groups that have adopted the methodologies of neighbourhood watch in the mode of operations

In 2017, EndFGM Community Champions were trained to disseminate useful information to community members as the right information is a pre-requisite for making decision to  

The training of the EndFGM Community Champions was necessary as norm-changing messages are best delivered to a group of people by someone from that community – who understands and acts like the rest of the people.

As it is known that issues like FGM cuts across many divides of the society – from politics to religion, cultural and, fundamental rights – these sectorial correlations also make such issues a sensitive subject

The use of EndFGM Community Champions for community information sharing reduces the risk of volatile responses or pushback from community members in the campaign to

 Building on the strength and success of the EndFGM Community Champions, communities in Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ebonyi and Imo states launched the “Male Engage to End FGM Coalitions”

In the decision to mutilate a girl or woman, men – from the family to the head of a community – have been identified to largely influence such decisions

According to the UNJP Situation Analysis Survey of 2015, men have a huge influence and can enforce decisions surrounding mutilation.

For such case, in Ekiti State, it was recorded that fathers, husbands and grandfathers make 60.3% of the decisions regarding if a girl or women undergoes FGM

Such information makes it essential to engage with men in their various groups and movements to solicit their support to

Just like in the models of neighbourhood watch, “Men Engage to End FGM Coalition” brings together male groups (boys and men) with the desire to see a change in attitude and eventually, norms in the immediate community

This Coalition of male groups deploy their members (boys and men) in their natural habitats to contribute to the campaign that protects their daughters, wives, sisters, aunties, nieces and mothers from FGM and other harmful traditional practices

Primarily, members of these Coalition are drawn from community-based groups, professional associations and social platforms (age grades, motorcycle riders, religious male group, etc) where these men already have existing audience to reach

The collaborative efforts of such men, allows them to have “no holds barred” discussions amongst themselves, which is a catalyst that can’t be denied in any society that puts men as head of the family

Development and change in social norms are a long journey, but with milestones that shows that the eventual change is possible. It is also usually from a multipronged approach/processes

One of the theories of change is that when community members agree, in unison, that a practice is no longer tied to any cultural apron or no longer a societal pre-requisite, everyone begins to pull it down without the fear of backlash

This is the major reason for public declaration of abandonment of FGM as indicators for the general goal of eliminating FGM by the year 2030

When a community, under the watch of their leader/custodians of culture, comes out publicly to denounce FGM, everyone in such community knows that no one will expect them to mutilate their wards any longer

But this is not enough in itself as many are hardened already and are laggards, as Rural Sociologists will call them because they are the last group to trust a new found solution/behaviour

These people will always be found in every society and it is essential to prepare for them as they can undermine the collective decision of the community

As such, a surveillance group is needed for monitoring in such communities and its workings are like that of neighbourhood watch

For such surveillance groups, it means that a community must have voluntarily declared abandonment of FGM under the watch of their leader/custodians of culture

Then a Community Based Child Protection Network (CBCPC) is established to forestall further incidence of such anti-social behaviour in the community

Progressively, it is seen that a gradual movement from EndFGM Community Champions to Men Engage to end FGM Coalition, and Community Based Child Protection Network is a right step in right direction for

Without mincing words, the use of neighbourhood watch approach in the campaign to  will reduce the risk of violent responses to social norm change as people will not see such messages as foreign

It also directly reduces the cost of prosecuting such campaigns as community members are only doing the needful within their immediate environment, reach and sphere of influence

The Neighbourhood Watch approach ingrains the campaign in the people and makes it easier for them to own the campaign. Owning the campaign is the best way to ensure that set goals are achieved.

With results recorded in many communities in the five UNJP focus states, from Izzi to Ipao, from Kajola to Oorelope and from Orlu to Orolu, the adoption of neighbourhood watch model is a great tool to #endcuttinggirls

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