Female Genital Mutilation comprises “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons.”
FGM also encompasses practices that involve injury or alteration to the external genitals including pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterization.
Ending FGM requires efforts at all levels.
The UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM is accelerating efforts to end FGM. In Nigeria, the UNJP is implemented by government agencies and civil society organisations, and supports policy formulation, service delivery and community-based activities in five states.
The five states are namely, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun, and Oyo State.
In Nigeria, many communities are coming out to publicly denounce the practice of FGM, making it culturally illegal.
During this ceremony, Traditional Rulers and delegates (representing key stakeholders) declared their commitment to abandon FGM, sanction any community member who continues to engage in the practice and hand that person over to security agencies for prosecution”.
To build on the achievements of the UNJP in Nigeria in ending FGM, end Violence Against Children (VAC), end Violence Against Women and Children (VAWG), increase the uptake of Birth registration services, and reduce the spread of COVID-19, UNICEF through NOA encouraged and built the capacity of the surveillance committees on integrated approach and messaging.
This training empowered the committee to continue to engage with and sensitize community members in about FGM to ensure that families are safe, and their members, especially children and women, are protected.
In Imo State, Nigeria, National Orientation Agency (NOA) with support from UNICEF, is partnering with the Community Women’s Associations (CWA) to establish a Community Based Child Protection Committee across the pilot LGAs in the UNJP programme
This training involved training two representatives (President and Secretary) of the CWA as FGM Monitors.
The purpose of CBCPC is to coordinate the community-based child protection and response systems at the Community level.
While the CBCPC members were representatives of key stakeholders in the Community including Traditional Ruler’s Council, Women Leader, President-General, Youth Leader, Custodian of culture, Clergy, and any other relevant stakeholder such as community vigilante group.
The CBCPC met at the end of each month at the Palace of the Traditional Ruler. In addition, members are also called, occasionally, as the need arises.
The Community Women’s Associations (CWA) will establish a Community Surveillance Team (CST) that will carry out the work on behalf of the Community Based Child Protection Committee (CBCPC).
The CWA was chosen because they are in the best position to monitor their pregnant members and intervene to prevent FGM, VAC, VAWG, Promote Birth Registration, and reduce the risk of COVID-
The presence of CWA members in every household, compound, kindred, and village in every community makes them the ideal partner to monitor child protection issues in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.
After the training as FGM Monitors, each CST representative will brief their Traditional Rulers on the outcome of the training and inform him the changes to the structure of the CBCPC and the inclusion of integrated child protection messages in their assignment.
The CST representatives will brief their members on the outcome of the training during their monthly meeting and explain the assignment that they are expected to carry out.
They CST representatives will also nominate Monitors in each village (2 persons per kindred) for effective monitoring and reporting. The trained CST and Village Monitors will be inaugurated by the Traditional Ruler, and start their work immediately.
The CST representatives and Monitors will lead discussions with women at the Community Women’s Association meetings at kindred, village and community levels.
They will use existing community programmes/structures (e.g. religious meetings; kindred meetings; age grade meetings) to present the integrated messages to the other community members.
If the lockdown and restriction on public gathering is re-instituted, the CST Monitors will move from house-to-house to speak to the people.
In each location, the Monitors will discuss the issues below, and the details are in the CBCPC Reference Guide.
Remind people of the public declaration to abandon FGM, and promote the EndFGM campaign slogan, “O di nma nwanyi bu ka Chi siri kee ya”! Identify opposing individuals or groups and engage them on further discussion and sensitization.
Talk about preventing Violence Against Children (VAC) and Violence Against Women and Children (VAWG), and inform them where to seek for help if it happens.
Promote Birth Registration Service Demand and Uptake and remind them of the importance of registering all birth with National population Commission (NPopC).
Talk about COVID-19 Prevention and Risk Mitigation. Conduct practical sessions on how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 through handwashing, how to cough or sneeze, social distancing, and use of nose masks.
Remind them to observe the guidelines for reducing the risk of COVID-19 provided by government.
Remind them to report and refer any suspected case of FGM, VAC, VAWG or COVID-19 through the telephone lines provided by NOA, MGVGA, MOH.
The CST Village Monitors will visit the family of a pregnant woman to remind them that the community has abandoned the practice of FGM.
When the woman delivers her baby, the Monitors will visit her to confirm the sex of the baby. If she delivered a female child, the family will be reminded not to cut or massage her genitals with any substance.
The Monitors will return on the 8th Day (when most girls are cut in some part of Nigeria) to ensure that the family does not subject her to FGM.
The Village Monitors will record the birth of all babies in the Community Surveillance Register (CSR). The FGM status of each girl will be validated when she is taken for immunization at 6 weeks (this is why the HOD Health was invited to the CST training).
If any female child is cut, the Monitors will record the incident, and inform the President of the Community Women’s Association, who will report to the Traditional Ruler.
The Traditional Ruler will notify the implementing partners (NOA, MGVGA and MOH) through the Telephone Helplines, below, to ensure that the case is referred to the appropriate FGM- related services providers (Health, Social, Law Enforcement and Legal).
The Traditional Ruler will also inform the CBCPC to ensure that the families and cutter involved are sanctioned, and handed over to the Law Enforcement authorities.
The Village Monitors will submit their report (no. of births, FGM status (after 8 days), etc.) at the monthly meeting of the Community Women’s Association (CWA).
The Secretary of the Women’s Association will collate the information from all the villages and summarize into the Community Surveillance Register of the CBCPC.
The President of the Community Women’s Association (CWA) will submit the CBCPC Community Surveillance Register to the Traditional Ruler, who will record the information, discuss any emerging issues and return the register to the CWA.
The Traditional Ruler will present the report to the CBCPC (Traditional Ruler’s Council, Women Leader, President-General, Youth Leader, Custodian of Culture, Clergy, and any other relevant stakeholder such as community vigilante group.) for deliberation.
Within the week after the end of month, the Traditional Ruler will submit the information generated by the CST and the feedback from the CBCPC to the Community Mobilization Officer (COMO) of NOA.
To ensure sustainability and for cost-effectiveness, the Traditional Ruler can send the report to the COMO through any of community member working at the LGA headquarters.
The COMO will transmit this information to the state office of NOA, upon receipt, for onward transmission to UNICEF. The process of transmitting the report will be as follows: CST → Traditional Ruler/CBCPC → LGA COMO → NOA State Office → UNICEF.
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.