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Genital Mutilation: Actions for Eradication.
Statement by PATH ( Program for Appropriate Technology in Health)
While we still await the accounts of successful eradication of female
genital mutilation (FGM) in countries, we have learned from the achievements
already realised, particularly by nation women's organizations, of the
importance of abiding by several key principles:
- Reconciling strategies to the distinctive features of each culture.
- Listening to and respecting the community's own perceptions on FGM
before embarking on sensitization and information campaigns can be
the foundation and collaboration and change.
- Integrating strategies with other health and development efforts
- Women are frequently faced with issues of their own and their familie's
survival and may not see FGM as an immediate priority. The incorporation
of FGM into broader efforts to improve women's status and health such
as reproductive and family health, family planning, adolescent health,
safe motherhood and child health may have wider appeal. The role of
education in changing attitudes and loosening the hold of tradition
is worth remembering.
- Forming alliances between modern and traditional leaders
- Reasons for the continuation of FGM are related to tradition, power
inequities and the ensuing compliance of women to the dictates to
their communities. Dialogue and collaborative activities between modern
and traditional healers will create the basis for understanding of
healthy values and practices to promote in unison.
- Excercising discretion and tact in referring to deeply held beliefs
- FGM is an extremely sensitive subject and those who practise it
may bery often believe in without understanding all its consequences.
- Seeking solutions from within counries complemented by international
- Although it is generally accepted that the process of eliminating
FGM must be undertaken by women themselves, their activities benefit
enormously from international technical support, advocacy and finance.
Framework for action:
- Adopt clear national policies for the abolition of FGM, as a real
risk to the reproductive and psychosocial health and well-being of
girls and women.
- Establish national coalitions involving government representatives,
professional and NGOs to co-ordinate and follow up the activities
of bodies concerned with discouraging FGM invluding, where appropriate,
the enactment of legislation prohibiting it.
- Support and encourage NGOs, women's groups, education and pressure
groups. An initial group can act as a catalyst to start open discussion
of FGM where formerly it was a taboo subjects. Advocacy on the part
of such organizations can generate support from national policy makers.
- Organize information and education programmes to inform people of
the harmful effects of FGM. Mass media, popular music and crafts,
as well as teaching groups, have been successfully used ot target
young women and men, health workers, treachers and community elders
Include health workers, traditional healers and birth attendants who
pracise FGM, otherwise efforts to reduce it will be undermied by indifference
or even opposition.
- Emphasize the importance of sustainability of programmes and focus
on integrated campaigns using consistent messages.
- Target young people, using information and education campaigns holding
unmutilated women in high esteem and resisting pressures to surrender
their children to FGM. Young people are often in the vanguard in creating
new social norms but, at the same time, sensitivity is needed to the
confusion and ambiguity and young women who ave already undergone
- Identify alternative income sources for practitioners of FGM for
whom it provides a livelihood.
- Involve local and religious leaders. Experienc shows that where
the local leadership is enlightened and committed, information and
education activities are more successful. The involvment of religious
leaders is vital for dispelling misconceptions about the religious
origin of FGM.
- Enlist the participation of men so that as women's attitudes begin
to change they find support among brothers, fathers, friends and partners.
- Prohibit the practice of FGM by health professional in any setting,
including hosptials or other health establishments.
- Increase research into all aspects of FGM, including the incidence,
prevalence, main reasons why FGM continues to be practiced in particulalr
groups, health consequences and successful interventions for eliminating
- Inform traditional and professional health workers of the health
complications caused by FGM, including how to treat women before and
after childbirth. Include counselling so that those who have experienced
FGM have the opportunity to express fears and concerns about their
health and sexuality.
- Incorporate FGM treatment and counselling into major health programmes
for women and children such as family planning, immunization and control
of diarrhoeal diseases.
- Recognise and encourage alternative puberty rites, which involve
gift-giving and celebration and help promote positive traditional
values, without causing physical damage to the child.