Female genital mutilation
FGM has been outlawed in Cote d'Ivoire since 1998 but is still practised in many parts of the country. From 2009 to 2012, IPPF’s Member Association in Cote d'Ivoire, the Association Ivoirienne pour le Bien-Etre Familial (AIBEF), implemented an advocacy project in the Seguela district, where the prevalence of FGM is a staggering 88 per cent – the highest in the country.
AIBEF worked closely with community leaders, a local women's rights non-governmental organization (NGO) and traditional FGM practitioners to raise awareness of the negative consequences of FGM and to ensure that the law is enforced. The overall aim of the project was to reduce the prevalence of FGM in the district, with an emphasis on changing attitudes at the community level. AIBEF conducted focus group discussions in 20 villages to determine perceptions and knowledge of FGM and whether and how the practice could be eradicated. The Association then trained religious and community leaders, journalists, community health workers and ex-practitioners on the negative health and rights consequences of FGM, as well as the law.
The project has shown innovation through the utilization of ex-practitioners as peer educators in the communities and beyond. Also, linking sensitization to other women’s rights issues – sexual and reproductive health and family planning – ensured that the message was heard by those who needed to hear it.
Much progress has been made through sensitization, training, word of mouth and other innovative strategies. It is delivered through committed project staff and volunteers (including community health workers and peer educators) who have worked closely with religious and traditional leaders, health-care providers and from local authorities.
- 177 people trained on the consequences of FGM
- 201,920 people (136,217 female, 65,503 male) attended awareness raising activities around the abandonment of FGM, health implications of FGM, the law against FGM and forced marriage
- 75,569 people informed about FGM through a documentary film and home visits
- 30 local monitoring committees established, including 20 at the village level, to ensure implementation of the law and to monitor behaviour change
- 4 arrests made based on alerts raised by the committees
- 17 ex-practitioners received micro-credit grants when they agreed to abandon the practice of FGM
Supplementary Quotes from the project:
Many community leaders have been involved in sensitization:
- I remind the people about the harmful effects of FGM, in the mosque and other public gatherings. When I talk about something, the faithful listen.” (Imam)
- “You see the way you are suffering, if you do the same to your daughter (mutilate her), she will go through the same pain.” (Midwife)
Ex-practitioners, determined never to be involved in the practice again, now understand the effects:
- “I didn’t like it. When I was young I saw what happened to girls and I didn’t like it. When my turn reached, I refused but I couldn’t raise my voice. When AIBEF came along, they helped us to voice our opinions.”
FGM is deeply rooted in centuries of tradition; women and girls who have not undergone the practice are often stigmatized.
- “A woman who has not been circumcised is constantly insulted and nobody wants to touch her food.” (Focus group participant)
Women are seen as the primary perpetrators of the practice; AIBEF, therefore, made a concerted effort to target women and girls in its community advocacy efforts.
- “It’s the woman who takes the initiative to circumcise her daughter. Even if the husband doesn’t approve, the young girl is circumcised unbeknownst to the head of the house.” (Focus group participant)