FGM in Emergency and Humanitarian Contexts
After having identified the challenges they face, the participants in the Virtual International Stakeholders Dialogue (October-November 2020) produced key recommendations on how to better address Female Genital Mutilation within humanitarian settings. The aim of these recommendations is to ensure that we do not lose sight of the millions of women and girls affected by FGM and living in fragile contexts. The experts also identified a series of existing good practices that should be further explored, scaled up and invested in.
Three overarching priorities came out of the online dialogue:
- Preventing Female Genital Mutilation and providing care for survivors must be urgently prioritised within humanitarian and emergencies settings.
- Funds for such programmes must be substantially scaled up by both increasing development funding and the involvement of other donors and stakeholders within the humanitarian assistance.
- The development-humanitarian nexus must be achieved through implementing gender-transformative and sustainable programmes in emergencies through the key involvement of women, girls and communities.
The group also provided specific recommendations around 10 key priorities.
Female Genital Mutilation prevention & care must be integrated in humanitarian programming
First and foremost, the experts stressed that FGM needs to be recognized as an important issue and considered as one of the forms of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) that increases during emergencies. It needs to be addressed with a multi-sectorial approach across all humanitarian clusters and throughout the humanitarian cycle. To do this, a scale up of long-term and flexible investments on combating FGM and providing support for survivors in emergencies is needed.
Prevention of FGM must be integrated in the humanitarian work. Experts stressed the need to prioritise and invest in gender-transformative programmes ensuring long-term sustainable behavioural change, as well as programmes guaranteeing women and girls’ economic empowerment and education in fragile contexts. Tackling poverty and economic hardship for all sectors of the population is an important step towards mitigating the risk of girls undergoing FGM. Experts shared examples of innovative means such as media campaigns and online tools to amplify the voices of women and girls, as well as community leaders and champions.
In addition to prevention, adequate care must also be provided for FGM survivors living in humanitarian contexts. This means ensuring that FGM-related services are not de-prioritised within the service provision in the humanitarian response. Experts recommend implementing a “Package of care” for FGM survivors including knowledge about FGM in the Minimum Initial Service Package – both in the lifesaving acute phase (particularly concerning de-infibulation during delivery) and in the restoration of comprehensive SRH and GBV services in the long-term.
Women, girls and communities must be at the centre of interventions
The stakeholders stressed the importance of ensuring that interventions are community-based and community-owned. All interventions must be informed by women and girls’ self-defined needs and the resilience of communities must be strengthened. Safe spaces, community dialogues and support groups, as well as surveillance, protection and referral community mechanisms are examples of good practices. Experts stressed the need for support and funding towards the work of communities and community-led organisations during emergencies.
In her key-note speech during the closing webinar (November 12th 2020), Dr. Nahid Toubia also stressed the importance of change happening from within the communities. She argued that development actors must support positive change that is already happening—rather than impose it from the outside and that they must be aware of how their programmes reinforce or question the status quo. She strongly questioned FGM programmes that provide support to those who already have power in societies, including the religious establishment, rather than supporting women:
“It is empowering women and girls that will lead to real meaningful change! We must work with all parts of society but women and girls must be the leaders of the change!“ Dr. Toubia shared a positive image of the change that is currently happening: “Today women and youth in Africa, Asia and the Diaspora, are speaking up against FGM, they are demanding their rights.“
All stakeholders must participate, be trained and work together
In order to ensure community-led interventions it is crucial to work in close collaboration with local actors, including women and girl-led organisations, as well as community health workers. Experts stressed the importance of connecting and supporting existing structures and stakeholders, something that has historically been lacking when humanitarian organizations enter a crisis context. The capacity of existing stakeholders, structures and services must be reinforced and partnerships set up with local and national institutions, including Ministries. One suggestion was to create online platforms to map both existing and available services for FGM survivors and all actors working on FGM in the field. It was also stressed that governments and donors should facilitate and invest in such connections to ensure sustainability.
Another important aspect to addressing FGM in humanitarian and crisis contexts is the need to provide adequate and systematic specialised training and capacity building for organisations, at different organisational levels. This requires both sufficient financial and human resources as well as clear organisational policies and practical protocols made available to professionals.
A strong recommendation was made to reinforce the coordination among actors working on FGM in humanitarian contexts, based on the observation that organisations too often work in silos. At the country level, experts suggested creating in-country multi-stakeholder coordination platforms to share information, data and strategize interventions on FGM through periodic meetings and a continuous and open communication, as well as a shared database centralising all data and information available on FGM in that context.
“We need to make sure the humanitarian and development sectors work closer together”
The stakeholders participating in the virtual dialogue found that development and humanitarian actors often do not communicate and collaborate with each other. Therefore, they insisted on the need to implement partnerships to bridge the gap between the development and humanitarian sectors.
Data collection, Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) and accountability must be ensured
Experience shows that there is an urgent need for data on FGM in humanitarian and crisis contexts. Several good practices were shared by participants in order to overcome this problem:
- To train and empower community members.
- To collect data at the local level during emergency contexts.
- To use new and innovative technology and tools, both online and offline, including mobile applications and remote surveys.
The report stressed the need to ensure that stakeholders who collect data within the humanitarian sector do so on all forms of GBV, including FGM, in order to ensure that interventions are evidence-based. Governments must also ensure that relevant national information always includes disaggregated data on FGM.
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