TWEET CONFERENCE SCRIPT: Identifying & addressing the needs of Girls/Women at risk of FGM Risks within the COVID-19 Responds

by Twitter Team @endcuttinggirls

Thursday 14th May 2020

The 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.

There is already unsettling amount of information on FGM occurring against the backdrop of the COVID-19 outbreak1.

It 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.

In addition, it is clear from previous epidemics that during health crises, women typically take on additional physical, psychological and time burdens as caregivers.

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.

Local 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.

Assess potential barriers to accessing services and accurate information, particularly for women, girls and other at-risk groups.

The 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 location.

In 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.

All 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.

Given the rapidly changing environment, options for FGM service provision are likely to change their modality, be reduced and/or operate differently than under normal circumstances.

It 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).

Liaise 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.

Within 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.

Work 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.

Options 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 on.

Women, 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.

This 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.  

Plan 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.  

Particular 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.

Suggested adaptations can include SMS/text messages, radio messages, and/or announcements in the site.

Messages 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.  

Involve 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.

Support women’s groups, camp committees and community leaders to effectively disseminate messaging, engage in awareness raising and hygiene promotion activities.

Continue to promote women’s participation in camp governance structures and decision-making processes, including on COVID-19 response measures. Guidance forthcoming.

In 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.

The 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 necessary.

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.  

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).   

For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int or watch

At this point, I will stop the conversation so we can reflect on the key points discussed as I entertain any questions.  

Thanks for 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.  

Together we will end FGM in this Generation.

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