Intergenerational aspects of FGM
Female genital mutilation is a social and gender norm, rooted in the tradition of the countries that practice it (AIDOS, 2021). FGM is linked to issues of femininity and identity in the societies where it is customary.
Social norms, such as FGM, are instilled by the family during childhood (primary socialization) and are developed through appropriation or rejection in adulthood (secondary socialization). Like other social norms, values, and traditions, the practice of FGM is transmitted from generation to generation. To advocate for the change of such a norm can be seen as challenging both the values and traditions of a community.
The prestige of these norms explains why even when the law condemns the practice of FGM, as is the case in many of the concerned countries, it continues to be perpetrated and may be favoured by a majority of the population. As we have seen in the previous discussion on Law & FGM, the practice is often so deeply rooted in social norms that people will rather break the law than abandon FGM.
In their text Perpétuation intergénérationelle de la pratique de l’excision au Burkina Faso, Maiga and Baya (2008) explain that within a family, a mother who has been subjected to the practice will often perpetuate it for her daughters (even when she has suffered from it) because she is convinced that “thanks to the excision she has been able to enter married life, escape sterility, experience abundant fertility, and blossom socially, a mother cannot wish a better fate for her daughter than her own”. In many communities, it is also particularly difficult to discuss taboo issues such as reproductive and sexual health, including FGM, with the older generation (The Girl Generation, 2019).
As an anonymous author expresses on Sahyio’s blog (2019):
“The irony is that [FGM is] a common practice passed down from generation to generation, but it is a well-kept secret. No one talks about it unless it’s your turn to undergo it.”
On the other hand, questioning traditions such as FGM can be particularly threatening to older generations, especially since the human mind naturally turns to preserve what has always been.
In some communities, the cultural ritual associated with the practice of FGM also reflects the hold of ancestors on modern societies (Maiga and Baya, 2008).
In a very concrete way, FGM is also traditionally performed by traditional cutters to whom the profession has been transmitted from generation to generation, from mother to daughter. Rejecting FGM thus implies, for some, rejecting the profession to which one was destined.
For these reasons, the process of changing the norm that is FGM requires engaging in a dialogue between generations. This strategy has been used by some NGOs working for an end to FGM. According to The Girl Generation (2019) intergenerational dialogues are “a participatory method for ending FGM with the aim of establishing a change in attitude towards FGM. These dialogues are based on strengthening dialogue between all generations, so that the entire community engages in a collective process of change.”
For example, the NGO SOWRAG implemented this strategy in Somalia, which allowed them to “facilitate a positive and facilitating environment where people could share their views on FGM openly. Both the younger and older generations were excited to talk about the issues around FGM and were happy to share their stories.” (The Girl Generation, 2019)
In June 2021, the Community of Practice is analyzing FGM from the perspective of intergenerational issues. In this discussion, we will address the different ways in which FGM is influenced by intergenerational relationships and how these relationships can be mobilized in the strategy to end the practice.
- What role do you think younger and older people play in perpetuating or challenging FGM in your community?
- Have you ever used intergenerational dialogue in your work? What was the result?
- How can intergenerational dialogue help lift the taboo on women’s sexuality?
- How can these kinds of dialogues help break the chain of intergenerational trauma?
- Aubel, J., Touré, I., Diagne, M. (2004) Senegalese grandmothers promote improved maternal and child nutrition practices: the guardians of tradition are not averse to change. Sciencedirect https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S027795360300652X?via%3Dihub
- Associazione Italiana Donne per lo Sviluppo (2015) Adressing FGM in development projects and programmes. Roma : AIDOS https://www.endfgm.eu/content/documents/AddressingFGMmanual-Book-Digital-19May-1.pdf
- AIDOS, UNFPA (2020) Dynamics of a social norm: Female Genital Mutilation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV-oVfKJQXg
- Bessaoud-Alonso, P., Romagnoli, R. (2019) La famille comme institution entre pratiques sociales et éducatives. Un dialogue France- Brésil. Sociographe, 1(1), XXVI-XXXVII. https://doi.org/10.3917/graph.065.0090
- CoP MGF (2020) Discussion “Santé mentale, bien être et MGF” https://copfgm.org/sante-mentale-bien-etre-et-mgf
- Eshborn, F. (2005) Dialogue des générations sur les MGF et le VIH/SIDA -Méthode, expériences sur le terrain et évaluation des effets, Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) https://health.bmz.de/ghpc/case-studies/Addressing_sexual_health_and_HIV_in_school/Toolbox_Education_1/Toolbox_Education_04_fr_Dialogue-g__n__rations05.pdf
- GAMS Belgique (2015) Femmes, excision et exil – Quel accompagnement thérapeutique possible ?, Access here https://www.icrw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/FGM-C-Policy-Brief_September_v8_WebReady.pdf
- Heger Boyle, E., Svec, J. (2019) Intergenerational Transmission of Female Genital Cutting: Community and Marriage Dynamics: Household Decision Making and FGC Discontinuation. Journal of Marriage and Family. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/331552782_Intergenerational_Transmission_of_Female_Genital_Cutting_Community_and_Marriage_Dynamics_Household_Decision_Making_and_FGC_Discontinuation
- Maiga, A., Baya, B. (2008) Perpétuation intergénérationnelle de la pratique de l’excision. Université de Ouagadougou https://www.erudit.org/fr/livres/actes-des-colloques-de-lassociation-internationale-des-demographes-de-langue-francaise/demographie-cultures-actes-colloque-quebec-2008/001528co.pdf
- MiddleBurg (2018) Conference on Youth Engagement to End FGM in Brussels. Access : https://www.annemariemiddelburg.com/2018/10/15/conference-on-youth-engagement-to-end-fgm/
- NJIKAM OM. (1998) « Croyances et perceptions des adolescents en matière de sexualité dans les zones urbaines du Cameroun », in B. Kuate Defo (éd.), Sexualité et santé reproductive
- Nos pensées (2017) Qu’est ce qu’un traumatisme intergénérationnel ? Access : https://nospensees.fr/quest-quun-trauma-transgenerationnel/
- Raya, PD. (2010) Female Genital Mutilation and the Perpetuation of Multigenerational Trauma. The Journal of psychohistory 297-325 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/44631474_Female_Genital_Mutilation_and_the_Perpetuation_of_Multigenerational_Trauma
- Sahiyo (2019) Reflections on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting & Intergenerational Trauma, Access : “https://sahiyo.com/2019/01/15/reflections-on-female-genital-mutilation-cutting-intergenerational-trauma/
- Shell-Duncan, B., Moreau, A., Wander, K., Smith, S. (2018) The role of older women in contesting norms associated with female genital mutilation/cutting in Senegambia: A factorial focus group analysis. PLoS ONE 13(7): e0199217. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0199217
- UNICEF, UNFPA (2019) Programme conjoint UNFPA-UNICEF sur les mutilations génitales féminines/l’excision : Accélérer le changement. New York: ONU file:///C:/Users/Yannick/Desktop/stage%20GAMS/travail%20guin%C3%A9e/joint%20program%20UNFPA%20UNICEF%202019.pdf
- UNFPA Gender Department (2018) Guidelines for the Planning, Implementing and Monitoring of Community Dialogues Supporting the Implementation of GBV Prevention and Response Programmes. https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/community_dialogue_guide_note_unfpa.pdf
- The Girl Generation (2019) Intergenerational dialogue catalyse change in Somaliland and Sudan, Access : https://www.thegirlgeneration.org/cases/intergenerational-dialogues-catalyse-change-somaliland-and-sudan
- Togetherwomenrise (2015) The Grandmother project, Fact Sheet. https://togetherwomenrise.org/programfactsheets/the-grandmother-project/
- Van Haecht, A. (2006) La construction sociale de la réalité : Berger et Luckmann. Dans : A. Van Haecht, L’école à l’épreuve de la sociologie: La sociologie de l’éducation et ses évolutions (pp. 109-121). Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgique: De Boeck Supérieur. https://www.cairn.info/revue-sante-publique-2012-5-page-403.htm
- Vodiena, G., Coppieters, Y., Lapika, B., Kalambayi, P., Gomis, D. & Piette, D. (2012) Perception des adolescents et jeunes en matière de santé sexuelle et reproductive, République Démocratique du Congo. Santé Publique, 5(5), 403-415. https://doi.org/10.3917/spub.125.0403
- Vogt, S., Mohmmed Zaid, N., El Fadil Ahmed, H. et al. (2016) Changing cultural attitudes towards female genital cutting. Nature 538, 506–509 https://doi.org/10.1038/nature20100
“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.
© Copyright : GAMS Belgium