Education & MGF
Last year, during discussions held as part of the Virtual International Stakeholder Dialogue (ISD) which had the primary objective of supporting the development of practical and promising gender transformative approaches to ending FGM through learning mutual, the identification of good practices. One of the recommendations that received strong support was:
Integrate gender-transformative education as part of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) into school curricula, pay sufficient attention to the rights and bodily autonomy of girls and boys, harmful practices such as FGM, as well as emotional education and relationship education.
According to UNICEF, in their study titled ‘’ The power of education to end female genital mutilation’’, even though FGM has proved to be remarkably tenacious, despite attempts spanning nearly a century to eliminate it, several countries have seen some declines in the practice – at least up until the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the pandemic on the practice of FGM is yet to be understood. (UNICEF, 2022)
Although, during one of the discussions on COVID-19 within the COP in the year 2021, members shared various points the view. They mentioned that the practice had gone down in some places, as the pandemic phenomenon mirrored that of Ebola. Cutters staying away for a while, as various measures to fight the pandemics were imposed, and others were suspecting that the practice might have instead gained momentum since schools were closed (COP FGM,2021).
In 2022, as the world gets busier with many other issues, such as wars, economic inflation and fighting the consequence of COVID-19, we wanted to make sure that actors such as the COP members continue to work together to accelerate progress against FGM.
As a reminder, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM. This estimate is based on 31 countries with nationally representative data on the practice. Other small-scale studies indicate that FGM exists in communities in at least 20 more countries around the world, where the exact number of girls and women who have experienced FGM remains largely unknown (UNICEF Data, 2022).
It is therefore important that we analyze ways to change mindsets towards FGM through education. This understanding is central to its elimination as education is one of the main drivers to achieve this.
Education also fosters questioning and discussion in general and provides opportunities for individuals to think differently, and sometimes be bold enough and dare to be different. The social roles might also start taking different forms and people choose to take those that are not dependent on the practice of FGM for acceptance such as girls’ marriageability.
The observation is as follows: Although schools generally promote the socialization of children in line with the gender ideologies specific to their communities, they can also, as privileged places for individual development and education, offer students the possibility of challenging the gender norms and unequal practices of their environment, including, for example, FGM. The concept of gender transformative education therefore relates to designing, delivering, and monitoring educational programs that empower individuals and communities to change gender norms, power relations and gender roles dominant within the society to which they belong (UNICEF | UNGEI).
Education plays a key role in challenging the discriminatory gender norms underlying the practice of FGM. In contexts where these are practiced on adolescent girls, when educated, girls may act and decide for themselves. Education can indeed give them the means to speak up against this practice.
Many elements also tend to confirm that the integration of awareness-raising modules on the issue of FGM in teaching programs can be effective in changing mentalities around this tradition. (UNFPA, GBV/FGM Rapid Assessment Report in the Context of COVID-19 in Somalia)
With the belief and evidence that education can help prevent the passing of FGM practice from one generation to another and based on the fact that schools provide a protective environment for girls at risk of FGM, we would like to reflect on the following questions during our discussion:
- How can education contribute to eliminating FGM?
- Which preventive measures should be reinforced in schools and colleges to fight against FGM?
- What is the role of school in protecting young girls
- What do you think of a comprehensive approach to gender-transformative education that would take into account: sex education, the promotion of equality between girls and boys, GBV including FGM?
The Commonwealth (2021), Female Genital Mutilation: The Role of Education, Access Here
Suzanne O’Connell (2020),FGM: The safeguarding responsibilities facing schools and teachers, Access Here
UNICEF | UNGEI (2021), Girls’ Education, Empowerment, and the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, Access Here
COP(2020), The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on FGM, Access Here
“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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