In Imo and Ebonyi State, you would find women making and selling soaps, as well as decorating cakes.
This form of business is part of a skill acquisition program that enables them to earn a source of living, make a profit and provide for themselves and their families.
The ladies are now becoming entrepreneurial after stopping career cutting as a form of employment.
Now, career cutting is a harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external Female Genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs whether for cultural or non-therapeutic reasons.
In order to stop this harmful practice, the Youth Network for Community and Sustainable Development (YNCSD) launched the FREE Fund Project with its focal person: Felxfame.
The FREE Fund Project seeks to empower career cutters with new income-generating skills that will support the livelihood of at least 50 identified career cutters in Imo and Ebonyi states who have declared willingness to abandon FGM/C practice as a source of income.
Through this project, the women are linked to business and skills acquisition programs.
To find out more about how the women decided to put up a stop to “career cutting,” and now taking up the skill acquisition programs, YNCSD decided to speak to Felxfame in the interview below.
What enabled the women to change the social norm of carrying out Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to skill acquisition programs?
One of the reasons why women go into career cutting is because they feel pressure, sometimes from their husbands to go into the practice.
The approach we use is to work with traditional institutions to enable them to stop FGM as part of their culture.
The women tend to see career cutting as a better practice because their other means of livelihood such as farming is not possible due to insecurity with the farmer/herder clashes.
In career cutting, they receive a lot of gift items which include money and they could obtain up to 10,000 naira or more.
However, now that we have introduced them to skills acquisition, they know there is more for them to benefit than that.
For the skills acquisition training, more than a hundred women came out but twenty-five were selected.
After the financing training, the ladies wanted to create a cooperative to kickstart their business.
Also, through the cooperative business, they would aim to empower other women.
How has the training been with the women who have stopped ‘‘career cutting’’ and moved on to skills in soap making and cake decoration?”
From my observations of the workshops, I could tell the women are enthusiastic. They always show up before their facilitator and are ready with their books to write.
For the financial management training, a lot of the ladies came out for the pastry workshop. They, therefore, seem to prefer cake decoration the most. This is due to the fact that it’s more lucrative. They are able to make more money when others are celebrating birthdays and weddings.
What are your thoughts on how men can end FGM in Nigeria?
Men play a major role when it comes to ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and that is why the men need to step up and care.
Personally, I gave birth to twin babies on the 14th of November 2022 and the nurse wanted to do a Type 4 FGM procedure on her.
A Type 4 FGM procedure includes all harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.
They do this a lot in Imo state and I told the nurse not to try it.
Even some Youths advocate for Type 4 FGM because they see it as normal. One had put some pressure on their wife to press on their daughter, and I warned her to stop.
For men to do more to stop FGM, the number one thing is that there must be more awareness. Some women are weak to defending FGM because of the pressure.
There is the need to convince the man to speak up because then the wives will pay attention and listen.
This is due to the fact that we live in a patriarchal society. Another thing that is needed is that men can convince other men too which means that peer influence can play a role.
An example is when Kelechukwu was my supervisor and a friend wanted to know where he could take his daughter for FGM.
This friend did not know the harmful and psychological effects of FGM and we had to educate him.
This means that when we educate the men, they can then be used to sensitize women on the need to stop FGM.
What are some of the challenges encountered?
When it comes to advocating for the end of FGM, there are a few factors that affect it such as insecurity. You would hardly get 80 percent of attendance with the stakeholders.
This is because you would get a case where a traditional leader and a youth leader of a group in the community would die.
Another main issue is that of funding which is very low for development. In the humanitarian sector, the focus is on funding for emergency and humanitarian when it comes to Boko Haram and Insurgency.
The area of funding is key because with more money, you then know who to reach.
Who do you target when conducting workshops and training?
When conducting workshops and training, we target village leaders and family heads.
In a big community of ten villages, we speak to the leaders one after the other and target them gradually.
After the training, we ask them to go to their families and pass on the information that we shared with them.
Also, in a whole compound, where you have up to four to five communities, we empower them to go back to speak to their families or the grassroots. The grassroots communities are in the villages, the king grade, LGA, ancient kingdoms, and a clan made up of four to five traditional rulers.
After communities, there are the wards. When you target them at that level, you target the grassroots. When we reach out to the grassroots, there can be a lot of politics that comes to play.