How to mainstream FGM ?

At the conference on the systematic integration of FGM held in Paris in November 2018 by the CoP-MGF, two panels were devoted to sharing good practices in the mainstreaming of FGM in different sectors.

In general, the importance of mainstreaming FGM in the concerns of governments was stressed, particularly through the creation of budget lines specifically dedicated to the fight against FGM and through the investment of multiple ministries on the issue: Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women’s Rights, Social Affairs but also Ministry of Finance, Cooperation and Foreign Affairs.

It is also crucial to involve the communities concerned, including young people, systematically and directly in all stages of programmes: from formulation to implementation and evaluation.

Furthermore, it is imperative that all actions be monitored and evaluated.

In the health sector

Although it is not necessary to limit oneself to the health approach alone in the move towards the abandonment of FGM, much work remains to be done in the health sector:

  • The health sector must play a role not only in the management but also in the prevention of FGM. However, too many opportunities are missed by health professionals to raise awareness on the issue.
  • Integration of FGM in sexual and reproductive health and maternal and child health programmes: work to be done at the governmental level but also by the WHO (guidelines for countries, recommendations, integration of FGM in their training manuals …).
  • The importance of the day-to-day work of health personnel, including front-line general practitioners. The need for better integration of FGM into the school curriculum to enable these highly respected members of communities to play a key role in prevention.
  • It is important to find opportunities to integrate FGM into broader health programmes.
  • Health professionals must be bold in discussing FGM with their patients.

In programmes aimed at improving women's rights and/or focusing on combating violence against women

  • Although FGM is a serious violation of the rights of girls and women, it is rarely addressed in government programmes to combat violence against women (domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment, etc.).
  • Importance of integrating FGM into sex education sessions through a holistic approach to sexuality, favouring a participatory methodology. Address FGM within a broader framework of gender norms and gender dictates regarding sexuality.
  • Professionals whose work leads them to address the primary needs of women affected by FGM must also be informed about gender issues and be able to integrate this aspect into their work.

In other sectors

Bringing FGM to the attention of religious leaders and institutions

We must better equip religious personnel by not limiting ourselves to using religious arguments but also by focussing on the medical and sociological dimensions.

Since religious structures are generally highly hierarchical, it is often necessary to reach the highest members of the hierarchy, sometimes avoiding approaching the subject too head-on. Religious leaders can use their preaching and influence in the community to address the issue of FGM and prevention.

Use of the media

Newspapers, radios, popular films, as well as tools such as community theatre to raise awareness in communities, and make art a vehicle for raising awareness and fighting.

School curricula

Both in countries directly affected by FGM and in countries hosting communities affected by FGM.

New directions to explore

How global warming affects FGM may be a new topic to explore.

The example of Kenya was given at the conference: With the drought, farmers lost a lot of livestock. The custom dictates that when you marry your daughter you get cattle so communities were encouraged to cut and marry their daughters earlier in order to replenish their livestock.

Lessons to be learned from gender mainstreaming

The experience of “gender mainstreaming” allows us to learn from obstacles and mistakes in order to better prepare for the “mainstreaming” of FGM.

Gender-only projects have fallen into oblivion in the space of a few years, while integrated projects have been able to continue to evolve and grow.

Nevertheless, several difficulties are yet to be overcome:

  • The risk of losing specific funds to fight FGM if diluted in broader programs where FGM would no longer be a priority
  • The risk of losing specific data and statistics on FGM
  • The need for human resources dedicated to this theme may no longer be acknowledged
  • Lack of accountability: if everyone is responsible for the issue of FGM, no one is really responsible for it
  • Who would then define the priorities in the fight against female genital mutilation?
  • Insufficient budgets remain a major concern.

Recommendations for mainstreaming FGM

The following recommendations were presented by the FGM Donor Working Group during the Conference on Mainstreaming FGM:

  • Integrate FGM into broader programs and sectors, while maintaining specialized projects on the issue.
  • Ensure systematic and institutionalized training of professionals, by including FGM in university curricula.
  • Strengthen research on FGM and ensure the collection of specific data.
  • Guarantee specific and sufficient budget lines.
  • Consider new funding opportunities while remaining committed to governments.
  • Request more transparent data on government spending and actual budgets for FGM
  • Keep governments, institutions and development cooperation accountable, including when it comes to budgets.
  • Deconstruct gender roles and stereotypes in the work on FGM.
  • Strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of programs and projects aimed at the abandonment of FGM.
  • Systematically involve the communities concerned in projects, including the younger generations. To do this, affordable funding is needed (small sums and flexibility).

« The Community of Practice on Female Genital Mutilation » is part of the « Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM » project, supported by the « UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM ».
The project is coordinated by AIDOS in partnership with GAMS Belgium.

The views expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UNFPA, UNICEF or any other agency or organization.

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