COVID-19 pandemic continues to present an array of challenges, forcing nearly
all types of basic service delivery – including, but not limited to,
humanitarian response – to drastically adapt.
is already unsettling amount of information on FGM occurring against the
backdrop of the COVID-19 outbreak1.
is also becoming increasingly clear that many of the measures deemed necessary
to control the spread of the disease (e.g. restriction of movement, reduction
in community interaction, closure of businesses and services, etc.) are not
only increasing violence against women and girls, but also limiting survivors’
ability to distance themselves from their abusers as well as reducing their
ability to access external support.
addition, it is clear from previous epidemics that during health crises, women
typically take on additional physical, psychological and time burdens as
such, it is critical that all actors involved in efforts to respond to COVID-19
– across all sectors – take violence against Women and Girls into account
within their programme planning and implementation.
women’s organizations are a good source of information on the safest and most
appropriate options for interacting/communicating with women and girls when
in-person gatherings are not possible.
potential barriers to accessing services and accurate information, particularly
for women, girls and other at-risk groups.
AAAQ framework provides a set of guiding questions to help identify potential
barriers that can be adapted to any sector and to the specifics of
government-mandated measures to control the spread of the virus in a given
situations where community consultations cannot take place due to
quarantine/lockdown policies, the AAAQ framework can act as a starting point
for humanitarian actors to think through potential barriers that women, girls
and other at-risk populations are likely to face.
humanitarian workers, no matter their contract type or duration, must be aware
that sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of affected populations is serious
misconduct. Each sector/agency should remind all their personnel that SEA is
strictly prohibited and how to report SEA by humanitarian workers.
the rapidly changing environment, options for FGM service provision are likely
to change their modality, be reduced and/or operate differently than under
is important to ensure staff and volunteers in all sectors are equipped to
provide accurate, up-to-date information on available FGM services and to be
aware of current limitations of response services (i.e. do not over-promise).
with State Ministries of Health to be aware of what is available; what the
current limitations of response services are; and key messages to raise
awareness on available FGM services.
the plan for implementing programming in any sector, it is recommended to
incorporate regular check-ins with State FGM focal point(s) to remain informed
of the latest developments on referral procedures/recommendations.
with state ministries of health to identify what these might be in your
location (for example, food and/or cash distributions, markets, pharmacies,
health or nutrition services) and consider if/how information on available FGM
services can be safely relayed at or through those entry points.
may include equipping staff and volunteers working in those sectors with pocket
cards containing relevant contact information, posting visual representations
of FGM referral pathways and/or hotline numbers in select safe locations and so
girls and vulnerable or marginalized populations often have less access to
information and are more likely to receive inaccurate information either
inadvertently or deliberately in order to uphold existing unequal power
dynamics and/or create opportunities for exploitation.
can affect women’s and girls’ ability to obtain objective and reliable
information about COVID-19 infection prevention control measures as well as key
information about the availability of and any changes in the delivery of
essential assistance, including FGM support services.
for adaptations to communication and information sharing mechanisms for
situations where large gatherings, access to communal buildings and community
meetings may be restricted or suspended.
care should be taken to ensure that timely, reliable and objective information
about COVID-19 and any changes in the availability or delivery of essential
services reaches women and girls, so their access is not compromised and they
are not at increased risk of marginalization.
adaptations can include SMS/text messages, radio messages, and/or announcements
in the site.
can be shared through mechanisms including but not limited to camp committees,
women’s groups and informal networks, adolescent youth and women with
disabilities groups, etc.
women and girls in the development of Information, Communication and Education
(ICE) materials on COVID-19 to ensure they are effective, appropriate and
proactively address misinformation and disease-related stigma.
women’s groups, camp committees and community leaders to effectively
disseminate messaging, engage in awareness raising and hygiene promotion
to promote women’s participation in camp governance structures and
decision-making processes, including on COVID-19 response measures. Guidance
coordination with end FGM activists, identify contingency measures to provide
support to FGM survivors in case access to services outside the displacement
site is restricted.
Before we close, we would like to share a brief overview of Female
Genital Mutilation (FGM) for the benefit of those joining our tweet conference
for the first time.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) includes all procedures that involve the
partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female
genital organs for non-medical reasons.
World Health Organization (WHO) classifies FGM into four types, and all four
types are all practiced in Nigeria.
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.
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 & labia majora.
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
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
FGM has no known health benefit, and is
harmful to girls and women. It involves altering, removing and/or damaging
otherwise healthy female genital tissue.
It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are
living with the effects of FGM, and every year some 3 million girls and women
are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to its potential negative health
consequences (UNICEF 2016).
In Nigeria, the
Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS 2018) revealed that 20% of women aged
15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 25% (NDHS 2013).
At this point,
I will stop the conversation so we can reflect on the key points discussed as I
entertain any questions.
being part of the conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm.
Visit our www.endcuttinggirls.org for
more info and updates on FGM, and kindly follow the handle “@Endcuttinggirls”
on all social media platforms.