FACEBOOK CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Progress Report: How Youth Are Changing Traditions Fueling FGM In Africa – 25.02.2020

Venue: Endcuttinggirls Facebook Event Page

Anchor: Raymond Okpani

25th February, 2020

Time: 5pm – 7pm (Nigeria Time)

Over the years, the campaign to end female genital mutilation through the initiative of UNICEF #endcuttinggirls has become one of the most successful campaign towards eliminating female genital mutilation.

Let me re-emphasize that in the recent times, the discussion, campaign and issues around harmful traditional practices especially FGM have become one of the most talked-about topics.

However, despite the massive interventions across FGM-practicing communities, with a lot of messages, there is need to use multi-pronged approach to keep driving the change to end this harmful practice.

Today, we will be looking at the various ways young people are changing the norms to accelerate the campaign to #endcuttinggirls in Africa.

According to WHO, 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 and are living with the negative consequences of the practice.

It is also estimated that 3 million girls are at the risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. So, what is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)!?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is also widely called various local and traditional names according to the community where it is practiced.

FGM is a form of violence which is based on cultural beliefs and gender norms. This harmful practice is performed on babies, girls and women depending on the community

In most communities, FGM is seen as a protection of virginity, a beautification process, and in a number of cultures is regarded as an essential precondition of marriage. There are different forms of FGM, some of which involve more radical excisions in the genital area than others.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified FGM into four types, and they are all practiced in Nigeria.

FGM Type 1 is defined as the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The subgroups of Type 1 FGM are: type 1a, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type 1b, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

FGM Type 2 entails the 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 2a, removal of the labia minora only; type 2b, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; type 2c, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

FGM Type 3 involves the 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.

FGM Type 4 is also known as unclassified and involves all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

The FGM Type 4 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 Africa including Nigeria.

FGM has so many consequences including short and long terms consequences ranging from excessive bleeding, trauma, Contraction of infections, etc.

Although the elimination of FGM was originally regarded as a mere question of health education and information, today FGM is recognized as a socio-cultural problem that is deeply rooted within the societies in which it is practiced.

Thus social change is indispensable if the practice is to be ended permanently. Commitment to ending FGM is symbolic of the effort to strengthen the position of women and women’s rights generally, because FGM is a serious violation of human rights, and its elimination would serve to advance virtually every one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the last decade, UNICEF under the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM, has supported strategic stakeholders, advocates, government institutions and civil society organizations (NGOs) to collectively and innovatively work together to eliminate FGM.

So many approaches, methodologies and various levels of advocacy have been deployed by various stakeholders with the youth championing major aspect of the initiative.

Many girls and young women are still subjected to genital mutilation in the name of ‘tradition.’ In the beginning, it was difficult to talk to anyone about that issue, as this is an unnegotiable topic and not ready for open discussion.

But against all odds, young people have taken to the stage in the campaign and deploying all possible strategies to combat the practice of FGM. I will be sharing about key strategies that young people are using to change Traditions Fueling FGM In Africa

Creating Awareness: Young people are predominantly affected by the practice of FGM, they have been helping to end this practice by engaging in aggressive awareness campaigns in rural communities, where cultural beliefs and societal pressure to conform to existing traditional practices force parents to let their girl children go through this excruciatingly painful and medically unnecessary procedure.

Engaging schools: The youth have been engaging with those who can various stakeholders across communities. Additionally, most youth advocates have directly engaged with various public and private schools to sensitize the students, especially girls, about the dangers of FGM. Since it is girls who are affected, such visits are led by fellow youths and in most cases, a female survivor of FGM who shared their personal experiences.

Engaging schools and religious leaders: The youth also engage with religious leaders to speak out against FGM through the various religious platforms.  For example, Nigeria is made up of highly developed and diversified religious groups, and the religious leaders are given enormous respect and weight in Nigerian society. Based on the respect they carry; youths have been engaging the religious leaders to convince their parents and community leaders to stop the practice of FGM.

Seek government support: One of the most effective ways to record maximum result in the campaign to EndFGM is through government support. As a result, young people are getting approvals for government’s support, while their advocacy efforts have led to and strong political commitment to enact strict penalties for those who still practice FGM.  Young people have been leading the way in tackling development, gender, and health issues, which are major components to ending the practice of FGM. They just need to be given more opportunities.

Advocacy to parents/traditional leaders: Young people have been highlighting the harmful health implications of FGM to parents and traditional leaders in communities where it is practiced, explaining that girl children who do not undergo FGM grow up to be healthy women and are no less female than girls who undergo FGM/C

Personal commitments: Youth, as future parents, are making personal commitments not to allow themselves to be subjected to FGM, and they are also promising not to subject their own children to FGM in the future.

Surveillance: In Nigeria, the youth are members of the Community Based Child Protection Committee (CBCPC), where they are monitoring the compliance to commitments made during the public declaration of abandonment of FGM.  

Organizing school-level art contests has been a very strategic initiative in the FGM campaign because it allows people from different cultures and different times to communicate with each other via images, sounds and stories. Young people have been using various Art contest as a vehicle for social change especially in the campaign to #EndFGM

The art contests have also given voice to the politically or socially disenfranchised. And in most cases, a song, film or novel can rouse emotions in those who encounter it, inspiring them to rally for change.

Peer education: Peer education aims to influence young people’s attitudes and behaviour patterns for the better. In Nigeria young people that have been trained on FGM inform other young people, their peers, about health and gave them their support in coping with their problems and telling them where they can seek for support.

Partnering with school clubs: Youth in school clubs (Health, Press, Debating Society, etc.) are collaborating with UNICEF-partners and are being trained to include ending FGM into their regular Club activities in the school.  These clubs are very active in creating awareness about FGM in their schools.

Life Building Skills training: UNICEF and partners are training girls (in-and-out of school) on ‘Life Building Skills” and FGM.  This empowers them to talk to their peers, family and community members about the need to end FGM.

Intergenerational dialogue: Years of experience have shown that education and awareness work alone do not bring about behaviour change.  Therefore, youth are engaging in the intergenerational dialogue, which is based on the principle of listening and questioning rather than instructing. It enables participants to reflect on their values, customs, traditions and expectations and to consider

whether, when, how and under what conditions change should take place.

There are so many other ways youth are using to accelerate the campaign to end female genital mutilation but the points mentioned above have formed some of the most effective methods and ideas to engage various traditions and ending the practice across all communities.

In conclusion, youth are the key to change. It is essential that they become empowered through education and various approaches to bring about behavioural change. It is equally important to involve their social environment into the change process – the decision-makers, that is, such as parents and traditional and religious leaders.

This is where we will end today’s segment of the conference and will gladly standby to take your questions. Thank you for staying with us

To learn more about the @endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign, please visit www.endcuttinggirls.org for information.  You may also follow our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, using @endcuttinggirls

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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