Ending FGM is a community issue

05 February 2016

In a large meeting hall, on a hot and sunny day in Londiani yesterday, community volunteers – both men & women – gathered together for the first learning workshop of the year in the campaign to abandon FGM.  These people are committed to ending the practice of female circumcision in their communities.  Their role is to campaign within their communities to help people to understand how dangerous and unnecessary the practice is and to bring about a change in behaviour.
The programme is facilitated by Friends of Londiani and it is a community based education programme that begins with creating awareness in the community around the issue.   This is done through community meetings bringing parents, leaders, teachers and other stakeholders in the community together.  The approach is non-judgemental, culturally sensitive and factual and with an emphasis on human rights and empowering girls and women. Information and educational materials are used to create awareness in the community along with use of posters, dramas, songs and various media. These materials are incorporated into public gatherings at field days, displayed in health clinics, ministry offices and schools.
The Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) is part of the FGM abandonment programme.  The reason for practicing FGM is to ensure that girls are ready for marriage.  By providing an alternative rite, families can still ensure their daughters learn the necessary skills and knowledge that are culturally required.  December is the traditional time for circumcision and so this is when the Alternative Rite of Passage takes place.  The girls spend a specific length of  time in seclusion where they focus on life-skills education.  The seclusion of girls is an essential aspect as it mimics the recovery period girls usually go through after FGM.  The rite concludes with a community celebration of the girls new status as young women and a public declaration by them to become agents of change within their own communities.  This is important for completion of the community based education as it brings the programme through a cycle from community awareness back to the community celebration and acceptance.

The timing of yesterday’s meeting ties in with the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutiliation (FGM). These volunteer facilitators are the people that make the campaign happen.  They shared yesterday the challenges they faced in December when they organised the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) programmes in their villages.  The learnings from this most recent ARP will feed into the next one in December this year.
Positive public affirmation of FGM abandonment is crucial to support the programme and ensure that it reaches more communities and protects the rights of more girls and women as this year progresses.  As individuals we can publicly declare our opposition to the practice of FGM and influence more people to do the same.  Join tomorrow in the campaign to END FGM – use your power to influence through your social media posts and your conversations over the weekend. #EndFGM