Tackling Female Genital Mutilation In Developing Countries

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to the practice of the partial or complete removal of external female genitalia. There are four types of FGM and all of them are conducted for non-medical reasons, but is usually done for social, cultural or religious reasons. FGM has no health benefits what so ever; instead girls and women who have undergone FGM usually suffer from long-term health problems,including serious bleeding, infection, infertility and even death. It is usually practiced in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia; however, it has also been practiced in Australia, Europe, Latin America, New Zealand and North America.

Girls and women who have undergone FGM are usually under the age of 15 and it is usually conducted against the girl’s well and consent. It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls are affected by FGM and it is practiced in around 30 countries. Traditional practitioners who have no real medical training usually conduct FGM procedures and the equipment and tools used are usually unsafe and anesthetics are normally not used.

The practice of FGM has decreased throughout years and much more people are against the practice, as international originations and NGO’s have brought more awareness to the issue. Despite this fact, around three million girls living in Africa are still at risk of FGM and it is estimated that 30 million girls and women are expected to face FGM in the next decade. Tackling FGM requires more than just giving communities or victims aid and money, as multiple reports on FGM show that in order to achieve a long-term goal of preventing FGM, communities that practice this must change their attitude and mentality towards FGM, as it is apparent that it has become somewhat of a social norm in many communities in developing nations.

It is evident that people’s economic and social status, community, age, and education are factors that contribute towards support for FGM. For example, AUNICEF report on FGM shows that younger women are less likely to not support FGM, as oppose to older women who are more likely in support of the practice, as the support for FGM from women aged 15 to 19 is 34% in Egypt, compared to 59% of women aged 45 to 49. The support for FGM among women is higher in poorer households compared to women who come from richer households. For example, the same UNICEF report shows that nearly 80% of women in poorer household support FGM in Somalia, whereas fewer than 50% of women who come from richer households support FGM in Somalia. In addition, girls and women with no education are significantly more likely to support FGM. The report estimated that the support among women with no education in Sierra Leone is around 85%, as oppose to under 40% of women with secondary or higher education that supports FGM in Sierra Leone.

Furthermore, it is apparent that in areas where FGM is less prevalent the more people don’t support it, whereas in areas with higher prevalence there appears to be more support. For example, the previous UNICEF report used shows that around 90% of women don’t support FGM in Ghana, but it is estimated that around 4% of women aged 15-49 have undergone FGM and only 1% for girls aged 0-15 have also undergone FGM in Ghana. Whereas, in Mali around 75% of women support FGM and the prevalence rate for FGM in Mali among women aged 15-49 is nearly 90%.The reasons behind support for FGM among women is for social acceptance, despite the vast majority stating it has no benefits because in Guinea nearly 65% of women reported they support it for social acceptance. The majority of boys and men also stated there are no benefits, but for those who do support FGM, it is mainly for social acceptance, as 42% of men in Sierra Leone also cited social acceptance for justification and support of FGM.

Therefore, the reality of FGM is much more complex and difficult to overcome, as after reading multiple different reports from NGO’s that conducted surveys and in-depth research on FGM in areas with the highest prevalence, it has become apparent that it is a social norm, which is difficult to change. In communities where it is conducted it is a socially upheld behavioral rule, meaning families and individuals support the practice because they believe that their group or society expects them to do so. The abandonment of subjecting girls and women to FGM requires a process of social change that results in new expectations on families.

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Aid Agencies Accused Of Profiting From Borno Crisis

(Originally posted on January 15, 2017, from Affinity Magazine)

The Governor of Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno state, Kashim Shettima, accused aid agencies of profiting off of the Borno crisis and not distributing the money where it is needed.

The Borno crisis is the result of a terrorist group called Boko Haram, who is perpetrating violence upon civilians, which has caused widespread displacement and a growing humanitarian crisis in Nigeria. This has resulted in up to 2.1 million fleeing their homes and according to UNOCHA more than 4.8 million people are now in urgent need of food assistance and 5.1 are believed to suffer from severe food shortages if not helped by the humanitarian community in 2017.

The Governor accused aid agencies such as the UN children’s fund and UNICEF of profiting from money that is supposed to go towards helping those fleeing Boko Haram’s Islamic uprising. Shettima stated that only eight of 126 registered agencies were achieving “good work”, including the WFP, UN Population Fund, the Red Cross, the International Origination for Migration, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Danish Refugee Council.

The Governor made these accusations recently to MPs and journalists at the state legislature in Borno’s main city of Maiduguri. He stated, “people that are really ready to work are very much welcome here. But people that are here only to use us to make money may as well leave.” Shettima also stated that people were profiting “from the agony of our people.”

The Governor argued that the UN are wasting funds on bullet-proof vehicles. He stated, “We hardly know what the UN agencies are doing.” He said. “We only see them in some white flashy bullet-proof jeeps; apart from that, we hardly see their visible impact.” However, the UN have a reason for their use of expensive vehicles, as last year a UN convoy returning from a camp in rural Borno was attacked by Boko Haram fighters, in which everyone survived due to the safety and security of the vehicles.

UNICEF ‘s latest report said the agency treated 160,000 children under five who were suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2016. They helped to provide health care for 4.2 million in the war zone, brought safe clean water to 745,000 people and in addition, they provided more than 1 million people with hygiene kits and education. Aid agencies have accused the government of hiding the extent of the humanitarian crisis, while the government has accused aid agencies of exaggerating the humanitarian crisis.