The Journey to Zero FGM; One Step at a Time!
The journey to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) has been an uphill one despite global efforts; its deep roots in social-cultural norms pose the biggest challenge to ending it in one generation.
The reality remains that FGM is a human rights violation which results in deep physical and psychological trauma that survivors must deal with for the rest of their lives. Girls need to be safe and healthy to fulfil their potentials. They deserve a future that is devoid of regret and pain of the consequences they never bargained for, which FGM inflicts on them. Thus, the need to focus on eliminating the practice of FGM so that girls and women are protected.
There have been lots of investments geared towards a lasting solution to the practice of FGM. Interventions like the UN Joint Programme led by UNICEF & UNFPA and the ENDFGM Campaign led by the Girl Generation in Nigeria have provided funding and programming support to government and civil society organizations working towards eradicating FGM in Nigeria.
To consolidate these efforts, Education as a Vaccine (EVA) has been working on the UNICEF/UNFPA joint effort to end FGM. With support from UNFPA, EVA has worked in Osun and Ekiti (two of the states with the highest prevalence of FGM in Nigeria) with other organisations, state ministries, as well as community gatekeepers to decisively eliminate this practice. In the two states, EVA collaborated with Young Men’s Network Against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (YMNAGBV), a network of young male leaders that works to challenge cultural perceptions and stereotypes that fuel gender-based violence. The collaboration was necessitated to implement the #ENDFGM campaign by training young people to carry out high-level community mobilization and sensitization on FGM and rally their peers to be the generation that no longer tolerates FGM.
In addition to community level actions, EVA and other women’s rights organisations continue to advocate for laws and policies that criminalize FGM both at state and national levels. This has led to the passage of the Violence against Persons Prohibition ACT (VAPP) in 2015 and other laws in different states that prohibit the practice. However, these laws are still insufficient to eradicate the practice. This is because communities where FGM is still practiced still have deep-rooted misconceptions, socio-cultural beliefs, and norms that hinder community members from abandoning this practice. Therefore, laws and policies require interventions at the community level that mobilizes, informs and educates members of the community on why FGM must be stopped.
For interventions to be contextually appropriate and most effective, it is critical to understand the progress being made by other partners working on FGM. Recently, Education as a Vaccine on behalf of the UN Joint Programme to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation undertook a study to assess the state of the programme in Nigeria. The study was conducted to ascertain the implementation of the legal and policy framework, the response of service providers towards girls and women at risk, as well as the acceptance of target communities towards accepting the reality of eliminating FGM. It documented the findings from the five states with the highest rates of FGM prevalence in Nigeria and this report will soon be disseminated.
Today, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, we join the rest of the world in the global advocacy to reinstate the needs for all hands to be on deck in ensuring the elimination of FGM. At Education as a Vaccine, we will continue to work to protect human rights, especially those of girls and young women using different strategies including strategic behaviour change communication; advocacy and social accountability; and community mobilization and system strengthening.
Creating a generation that will phase out FGM is possible!
Governments at all levels must take complete ownership in all efforts towards the abandonment of FGM by investing in awareness creation to publicise both the harms done by FGM and the law prohibiting the practice.
Since FGM violates women’s reproductive rights and robs them of their autonomy, relevant stakeholders must take steps to end FGM and dispel all unnecessary myths surrounding it.
FGM is a public health issue that has a significant impact on the lives of women and girls and their overall health and well-being. It is up to all stakeholders to demand that the state governments domesticate the VAPP Act, and where it already exists, implement it, as well as enact laws and policies that protect women and girls against harmful traditional practices.
Going further, with more supports, EVA will intensify efforts to carry this campaign to other communities in Nigeria, ensuring that this violent cultural practice against girls and women is totally abandoned.
Written By: Bayo Olanrewaju Ewuola