Towards gender transformative programming on FGM

Because FGM is closely linked to gender inequality, UNICEF calls for gender transformative approaches to tackle the practice:

“Gender transformative programming aspires to tackle root causes of gender inequality and moves beyond self-improvement among girls and women to redress power dynamics and structures that serve to reinforce gender inequalities. A gender transformative approach engages men and women, girls and boys to challenge harmful gender norms and practices such as FGM.”
(UNICEF, 2020)

The technical note “Gender Transformative Approaches for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation” aims to help implement anti-FGM programmes that tackle root causes of gender inequality and redress the power dynamics and structures that serve to reinforce gender inequalities in societies.

The tool first helps to understand the difference between social norms and gender norms, and how both drive the continuation of FGM.

“While changes in social norms are about changing people’s beliefs, changes in gender norms require changes in institutional policies and power relations. Unlike social norms, men (and some women) have a vested interest in upholding discriminatory gender norms that sustain inequalities in access to resources and power.”

UNICEF then gives some step-by-step advice on how to implement gender responsive programming. First of all, a gender analysis is needed in order to understand how gender roles, relationships and decision-making processes and power relations between women and men, girls and boys perpetuate FGM in a given context. This gender analysis is highly useful for designing programmes.

Gender transformation requires interventions at different levels of society: from those aimed at increasing individual agency, interventions at household/family level, those at community level and up to interventions aiming to bring about change in society’s institutions and in legislation. UNICEF emphasizes that men and boys should be included in programmes and engaged as agents of positive change in shifting unequal power relations, in promoting positive masculinities, and changing attitudes and behaviours that are a cause and consequence of FGM such as controlling girls’ and women’s bodies and sexuality.

It is important to remember that gender transformative programmes take time. It may not be enough to only monitor how FGM prevalence is affected by the programme. “Gender transformation in the form of shifts in social and gender norms that sustain FGM is rarely linear, progress can be slow, but also very sudden following years of inertia. In the meantime, monitoring gender transformative approaches to FGM elimination involves documenting incremental change.”

This diagram helps to analyse and understand if a programme is discriminatory, gender-“blind”, gender sensitive, responsive or even gender transformative.   UNICEF, 2020

For more informaton, see the CoP thematic discussion on "Gender transformative approaches to ending FGM" (November 2021)

“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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