Working with Men to End FGM

Over the years, the involvement of men to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has taken various forms in different communities. Organisations across the globe have used varying strategies to engage men in the fight against FGM, educate them on the effects of the practice and raise their awareness of the need for them to participate actively in its eradication. 

These male engagement programs have resulted in a surge of male allies around the world, who have been educated on the harms of FGM and are now championing the cause of ending the practice within their communities. Religious and community leaders have condemned the practice in their communities by separating it from religion.

In this section, we have grouped the programs and strategies employed by NGOs and anti-FGM champions into the following broad themes:  Education programs & Community engagement programs and Media programs.

The following examples were shared by individual members and organisations within the Community of Practice on FGM.

Community engagement and education programs

Male involvement programs often target men on two levels:

  • Through awareness-raising activities in communities that address men separately or together with women, sometimes targeting specific groups such as (male) religious or community leaders.
  • Through training some men to become male allies who then take an active part in community activities. This strategy is based on the assumption that men will be more likely to listen to other men.

In Somaliland, the International Solidarity foundation runs a Network against FGM (NAFIS). The network’s main goal is to eradicate FGM in the territory by campaigning for anti-FGM and through engagement with religious leaders and policymakers, who are mostly men. Through their community meetings, local civil society organisations managed to influence a FATWA (a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognised authority) on FGM in favour of an optional Sunnah cutting instead of an obligatory and more extensive practice and were also instrumental in the drafting of an anti-FGM bill (2019) condemning all types of FGM whether carried out by a parent, caregiver, health worker or a traditional cutter.

Tackle Africa, a UK founded organisation working in Africa, uses football to engage and educate men and boys to address sexual and reproductive health right issues, including FGM. Their education sessions take place on the pitch where they take their beneficiaries through drills to educate them on issues like FGM or HIV, by making them answer pertinent questions and provide solutions to problems. Tackle Africa employs an inclusive method to train African young leaders to become coaches and deliver the message to other young people.

Through their 5-step program, Tackle Africa has engaged youth in 12 countries, resulting in 1505 people pledging to eradicate FGM. Their FGM education program heavily involves the assessment of the FGM curriculum design used to train their beneficiaries.  With the strong belief that sport makes it easier to make contact and encourages open dialogue, Tackle Africa, in addition to their education programs engages in a series of community engagements with families, local authorities and other young leaders to promote dialogue and amplify the anti-FGM message.

In The Gambia, Modou Lamin Davies head of programs at Safe Hands for Girls and founder of HeForShe The Gambia participates in the implementation of various education and training programs on FGM for law enforcers, who are mostly men.  The Annual 16 Days of Activism Nationwide Caravan is a very popular and widely used medium in the country for community engagements on violence against women and sexual and reproductive issues like FGM. It takes different organisations and activists to all the regions in The Gambia to advocate for gender equality and the eradication of FGM. 

Through their male champions program, the Kenyan organization Men End FGM engages men and boys in various communities they work with by educating them on FGM and their possible role in the fight against the practice. This program has created a significant ripple effect where men from the community engagements go back to their communities to lead anti-FGM campaigns and help eradicate the practice. The NGO reports that they have saved 250 girls who were at risk of FGM, increased the number of men spreading the message in their community, reported a change of attitudes and overall significant reduction of cases of FGM in their areas of intervention.

Education programs are also implemented in migrant communities affected by FGM. In Ireland, for example, Rodrigue Bukungu Nkwayaya, who is a change champion with the Irish organization AkiDwa, a national network of migrant women living in Ireland and an Ambassador for the European End FGM Network, uses tools such as the “body map” and the “problem tree” to help participants understand the consequences of the practice. He has seen a significant increase in awareness about the dangers of FGM and believes that both men and women are more empowered to take a stand against the practice.

The “Men Speak Out Against FGM” was a partnership between three European NGOs (GAMS Belgium, FORWARD UK, HIMILO foundation in the Netherlands) aiming to engage men in the process of ending FGM and, on a larger scale, to contribute to ending violence against women and promote gender equality. Through the program, that ran from 2015 to 2017, peer educators were trained in the three countries and specific tools were developed for men (posters, booklet, video, TV and radio programs), addressing FGM with a human rights and gender approach. The trained male peer educators organized awareness-raising activities in their communities and also contributed to the data collection of a study that was conducted parallel to the awareness-raising activities. At the end of the “Men Speak Out” program national events were held in the three countries in which male allies were invited to take a public stand against FGM and also to engage in dialogue with women.

Media campaigns

Media has proven to be a great medium for awareness-raising within the anti-FGM movement. Organisations and anti-FGM campaigners use different media outlets to run their campaigns and engage communities, including men, in the fight against FGM.

The Men End FGM organisation in Kenya uses social media to spread messages on their work with male allies, testimonies from men and the results achieved. On their platforms, they host Twitter chats with men to condemn the practice and raise awareness. They equally use podcasts and radio as a medium to convey messages on FGM in order to influence and inspire more men within the African continent to join the fight against FGM.

Even in the era of social media, Radio and TV remain crucial awareness-raising tools for the anti-FGM movement. HeforShe in The Gambia is among the organisations that continue to use these mediums to reach men and women. Modou Lamin Davies and his colleagues host radio programs on FGM and the role of men and have joined TV panels on the subject.

The Non-Governmental Organisation, AIDOS has implemented trainings on how to produce radio shows on FGM, targeting both men and women, watch it here.

These examples of programs, strategies and mediums used to involve men in the work to end FGM is far from exhaustive.

Have you implemented a Male involvement program against FGM? Share it with us!

“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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