Date: June 18, 2020

Anchor: @_chzy (Lauryn Dunkwu)

WHO estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone #FGM and continue to live with the negative consequences of this violating procedure. Further estimates by UNICEF (2016) show that 3 million girls around the world are at the risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year.

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 a form of violence against women and children is frequently practiced as traditional rites across many different cultures. Often as a part of traditional beliefs, FGM is wrongly practiced as a means to beautify women sexually and equally wrongly assumed to preserve virtue.

Many different forms of Female Genital Mutilation are practiced across cultures. FGM typically 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) has classified FGM into four types, all of which are practiced in Nigeria. They include:

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 is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who may have other roles in the community, such as Traditional Birth Attendants. In other instances, willing medical professionals are be sought out by parents to have the procedure carried out on their daughters.

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.

The practice of FGM continue to prevail for reasons including; Respect for Tradition, Rite of Passage, Social Convention, Marriageability, Virginity, Fertility, Chastity and Faithfulness, Cleanliness, Femininity, and Religion.  

For more information about FGM you can visit http://new.endcuttinggirls.org/ or https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation.  

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a growing concern in the world, and is classified as a violent act against the girl child, violating the human rights of individuals. 

As part of any campaign in recent times, it is important to consider the unique perspective social network provide in achieving a goal

The UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM in Nigeria promotes transformation of social norms, and social media platforms are visual tools that we can utilize to foster social reflexivity and reshape attitudes towards protection of the girl child.  

It is therefore beneficial to any behavioural and policy intervention campaign, to have a sound understanding of the intricacies of social media.

The current state of affairs around the world with the #COVID-19 pandemic has geared our daily activities towards increased virtual interactions.

As a mean to ensure safety from becoming infected with #COVID-19, we have been correctly advised to adhere to safety precautions. Some of such precautions include proper mask use, regular washing of hands and/or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and conscious physical distancing at all times

We must also acknowledge that despite the pandemic and the resulting halt/slow down of economic activities, many harmful practices including FGM continue to be practiced. It is important that efforts to curtail such harm practices do not become stagnated by the recent events around the world and in Nigeria.

There is a constant need for active engagement with communities, leaderships and key influencers to ensure young girls and women are protected from the practice of FGM through this period of the pandemic and afterwards.

Through social media, we can showcase activities, inspire people, raise funds, reach a broader audience, and demonstrate the impact of intervention programmes such as the  campaign

I will share some tips for utilizing social media as a key tool towards ending FGM.

Use Images: make posts with images and infographics as they are more likely to be noticed and cascaded to wider circles. The  YouTube page https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyB8f8IM3k2xTsKNfUZf9wg/videos shares a collection of clips from interventions in Nigeria, and is a great source of clips for your posts.

Tags: it is important to mention the key figures involved in the #EndFGM campaign. It is also important to be tactful with tagging so as not to spam people.

Simple Language: a lot of campaigns contain technical terms that may not be easy for the public to understand. We must ensure that our key messages are transmitted in the easiest formats for understanding.

Correctness: While we push for authenticity, we should ensure that we share facts backed with evidence; always proof-read  

Data: Analytics are a key part of driving success in any business and the same is true for interventions via social media. It is useful to understand your key demographics and what interests them; utilize free analytics software to achieve this.

Consistency and Timing: Note what periods have the most activities on your preferred social media platform; remain consistent in patterns of sharing and engaging with your contacts.

Furthermore, there are simple guidelines to follow when joining the fight to  via social media

  • Follow the Do No Harm Guidelines to protect women and girl from unintended harm from your communications work. You can find the guideline at https://www.unicef.org/cwc/cwc_58682.html
  • Celebrate positive changes in your campaign. It is encouraging to know that change is possible and simple actions can go a long way in achieving that
  • Be sure that your words do not offer criticism of religions, ethnic groups, and cultures, but rather focus on the practice of FGM and its harmful outcomes
  • Be sure to get consent before sharing multimedia content and stories featuring people. Ensure that the people are aware of the context (#EndFGM) for which you would be using their images. You can find relevant consent forms at https://www.thegirlgeneration.org/resources/girl-generation-resource-centre 
  • Share positive messages of girls and women; it is pertinent that we continuously push the narrative that women and girls can be educated, healthy, and happy.

As we stay safe through the #COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue to push for behavioural change and for a review of our community norms.

John Guare quotes, “I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people”. Through social media, campaigns to #EndFGM like  can easily disseminate information to “trails of six people” who each cascade to their own trails.

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 Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms.  @Endcuttinggirls

Together, we will end FGM in this generation.