TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Unleashing Youth Power: amplifying the #EndFGM campaign in Nigeria through young Social Media Advocates (SMAs) – 06.02.2020.

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, 2020.

N/B: UN official hash-tags and handles for 2020 celebration: #EndFGM #YouthEndFGM and @unicefprotects @GPtoEndFGM

Today, February 6, is a day set aside annually since 2012 by the UN General Assembly as the “International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM” aimed at amplifying efforts towards the elimination of this harmful practice by the year 2030.

With the significant population growth, coupled with the huge potentials of young people, then investing in them becomes very important and indispensable, if we must #Endcuttinggirls within the next 10 years,

For this reason, this year’s International Day is focused on mobilizing youth with the global theme: “Unleashing Youth Power: One decade of accelerating actions for Zero Female Genital Mutilation by 2030.”

Although FGM has been practiced for more than generations, elimination of the practice is high on the international agenda, enshrined as target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the spirit of this year’s celebration, our topic today is “Unleashing Youth Power: amplifying the #EndFGM campaign in Nigeria through young Social Media Advocates (SMAs)”.

In case you are joining us for the first time however, FGM stands for ‘’Female Genital Mutilation”

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” (WHO, 1997).

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; and Unclassified (e.g. “pressing” the clitoris with hot water)

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

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, albeit erroneously.

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 known 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, you can visit who.int or watch

Since 2008, UNICEF and UNFPA, have been jointly leading the largest global program to accelerate the elimination of FGM. The program currently focuses on 17 countries in Africa and the Middle East and also supports regional and global initiatives.

Over the years, this partnership has seen significant achievements. For instance, 4,274,271 million girls and women supported by the Joint Programme have benefited from FGM-related protection and care services from 2008 to 2018. At the end of 2017, thirteen (13) countries, where the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme is operating have laws banning FGM, with similar laws pending in three (3) countries.

 As we celebrate this year’s edition of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, it is worrisome to note that in this year 2020 alone, some 4.1 million women and girls around the world are still at risk of undergoing FGM.

Whereas Nigeria has a National FGM prevalence of 20% among women age 15-49years (NDHS 2018), the absolute number of women that have undergone FGM is very high due to its large population. Despite an overall decline in the prevalence of the practice over the last three decades in Nigeria, FGM has persisted and much more therefore needs to be done!

Good enough “Unleashing Youth Power” is at the center of the celebration for this year. Can amplifying the #EndFGM campaign in Nigeria through young Social Media Advocates (SMAs) take us to the next dimension of success?

In November 2015, UNICEF Nigeria launched a social media campaign with the caption “Endcuttinggirls” in order to expand access to information about FGM, and provide visibility for on-going community-level intervention under the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme, the campaign also aims to constantly educate and interact with young people and other stakeholders on the EndFGM campaign.

Consequently, UNICEF supported the formation of a Network of Young Social Media Advocates (SMAs) to manage the Social Media Campaign on behalf of the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Program on FGM Elimination. This Campaign began with the training of 35 young people (F-16 & M-19) from six States (Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Imo, Ebonyi, and Abuja), as Social Media Advocates (SMAs) for FGM abandonment. 

Through the young Social Media Advocates (SMAs) initiative, UNICEF Nigeria therefore gave young people the opportunity and platform to unleash their Youth Power towards scaling up efforts to end FGM in Nigeria. These young people have been the driving force behind the #Endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign in Nigeria #EndFGM #YouthEndFGM @unicefprotects @GPtoEndFGM

Between 2015 and now the young SMAs have sustained the #Endcuttinggirls social media campaign which currently appears to be the biggest online campaign going on against FGM in Nigeria.

Today, there are social media handles with the name “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria” on various social media platforms ranging from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. And there is also a website www.endcuttinggirls.org.

With our social media presence, Endcuttinggirls handles have become an #EndFGM mouthpiece and an online information reservoir for the Nigerian internet community.

Our Twitter conferences hold every Thursday from 5-7pm (Nigerian Time) with the discussion hash-tag #Endcuttinggirls and our official twitter handle remains @endcuttinggirls #EndFGM #YouthEndFGM @unicefprotects @GPtoEndFGM

Our Facebook conferences hold on the last Tuesday of each month from 5-7pm (Nigerian Time), from our official Facebook “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria”. And on our Instagram handle “Endcuttinggirls”, is used for sharing informative info graphics and pictures from the campaign.  

We also organize quarterly WhatsApp conferences targeting participants from high FGM prevalence States (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo) in Nigeria, based on the 2013 Nigeria Demographic Health Survey.

Through our Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp conferences, our followers and participants are constantly sensitized on the dangers of FGM and diverse approaches towards eliminating the harmful practice through these social media platforms, the public has also from time to time reached out to us with their FGM-related questions and received clarifications and technical support.

If you visit our YouTube channel “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria”, you can watch the 40 #EndFGM videos that we have produced over the years. They are of high quality, educative, entertaining and insightful. Three new videos of the SMAs will be released today!

These 40 YouTube videos have served and are still serving as #EndFGM sources of information and discussion starters for many people and organisations.

Our website www.endcuttinggirls.org has continued to serve as a central reservoir for FGM related-information and materials for the general public including researchers and advocates.

On several occasions people have alerted us through our social media handles whenever someone in their neighborhood is about to be mutilated, and we have always responded with the relevant agencies to avert such cases of FGM.

Besides the online campaign, the UNICEF-trained young Social Media Advocates (SMAs) are also physically working in the 5 states (Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo) where the United Nations Joint Program on FGM Elimination is taking place in Nigeria.

The young SMAs at different state levels have also partnered with government agencies and civil societies organizations, supported by UNICEF under the Joint Programme, to document their community interventions such as awareness creation, trainings, public declaration and other FGM-related events.

The young SMAs provide visibility to these events, encourage community members to join the social media campaign, and broadcast these events, real-time, through the #Endcuttinggirls social media handles in order to amplify the events and ensure that people beyond the communities of intervention are aware of the campaign to end FGM in Nigeria.

Together with other stakeholders, the efforts of the SMAs have translated to communities in the 5 states publicly declaring the abandonment of FGM.  More are still being expected to declare in year 2020.

These successes recorded so far through the #Endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign can further be amplified when more, or possibly every, Nigerian young person on social media becomes joins the campaign.  This is possible!

They can join us by searching for the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria” on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and then click follow, like our page or subscribe as required on specific social media platforms.

Check out these links to access our handles: Facebook (https://web.facebook.com/endcuttinggirls/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/endcuttinggirls/), Twitter (@endcuttinggirls), YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg/) and website (www.endcuttinggirls.org). By following our social media handles, you will start getting updates on our activities, you can also share some of our posts and contents on your personal timeline and you will have an opportunity to add your own voice to the campaign.

Beyond the Endcuttinggirls social media campaign, how else can young people unleash their youth power towards accelerating EndFGM efforts.

So the first question is why do we need to engage youth to end FGM? The reasons are below;

  • Youth need to know about issues that affect them, their peers and their communities, including harmful practices such as FGM.
  • Youth can be directly or indirectly affected by FGM and will need information and support.
  • Youth bring energy, passion and a new outlook to efforts to end FGM.
  • Youth advocates are best placed to engage their peers and other youths.
  • Youth are also the driving force of developments to eliminate harmful traditional practices.
  • Youth are the next generation of key actors. Thus, engaging them on FGM will ensure that tomorrow’s policymakers, doctors, midwives, social workers, and parents are informed, responsive, and are advocates of change.

So the second question is how do we get the youths on board? How can we really get them empowered and equipped to be part of this campaign? The strategies are as follows;

  • First, leverage on Secondary schools, religious youth groups/association, community youth groups/associations, age grades, social clubs, and Social media as platforms to reach out to this young people and build their capacity and inspire them to become
  • second, all young girls who are already knowledgeable will take a decision not to submit themselves to be mutilated, especially in communities where teenagers are mutilated. 
  • third, all young girls and boys of today will one day get married. They will also take a decision never to mutilate their daughters.
  • fourth, young people can engage our parents, family members and friends on the need to abandon the practice.
  • fifth, young people should speak out when either they, their siblings, your friend or someone in their neighborhood is about to be subjected to FGM.
  • sixth, young people can become #EndFGM advocates in all associations where they belong to, be it in school, church, community, age grades and social clubs.
  • seven, by signing up to the Endcuttinggirls Social media campaign on various social media platforms, young people can use their own personal social media handles to share some of our contents, and make posts that show their support for ending FGM.

In line with the above strategies, since 2015, the young SMAs across the 5 project states have worked with secondary schools, religious and community youth groups to sensitize young people on FGM,

  • The SMAs build the capacity of the girls to speak out when they are at risk of being mutilated, and let them understand their roles even as young people in accelerating efforts to end the practice.
  • Many of the young people reached in this manner have being doing wonderful #EndFGM works as a direct outcome of their capacity building.

When the youths are well informed and equipped, there are several ways they can unleash their youth power to help solve the problem of FGM. Their creativity and energy will be used to craft innovative ideas to accelerate the change that we seek.

Time has come for young people out there to bring out their youthful energy to lead and scale up this campaign. Why? Because… Youth are the key to change. Youth should be empowered through education and various approaches to bring about behavioural change in their family, communities and society.  Youth should be involved in making decisions in all matters that concern or will affect them. 

As we celebrate today, we have to appreciate every individual, group or organization that have been at the fore front of the campaign to end FGM in Nigeria and the globe at large.

With only a decade remaining for achieving SDG Target 5.3 – the elimination of harmful practices including FGM by 2030 – we need to galvanize the global movement to accelerate efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation. This is why we must engage youth to accelerate the campaing to end FGM.

Thanks for being part of our conversation today. Join us every Thursday 5-7pm. Visit our website www.endcuttinggirls.org and kindly follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms. It’s time to hear and respond to your questions and/or opinions based on the conference. Keep them coming.

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