From Victim to Victor: Supporting FGM Survivors in their Healing Journey

From Victim to Victor: Supporting FGM Survivors in their Healing Journey



Lucy Eyo (Youth Anti-FGM Network Member)

The Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act, signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2015, prohibits Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) and all other forms of gender-based violence in the country. Section 6 of the VAPP Act outlines the consequences for those who engage in FGM, establishing a set of penalties for the practice. However, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) continues to be widespread and affects a substantial number of women and girls in Nigeria. The consequences of FGM, both in terms of physical and psychological impact, are far-reaching, subjecting survivors to long-lasting trauma that persists throughout their lives.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation that can cause significant physical and emotional harm. Those who have undergone this practice frequently experience immediate health dangers, including infections, excessive bleeding, and discomfort during urination and menstruation. Long-lasting effects can involve enduring pain, childbirth complications, and sexual issues. Besides the physical scars, deep emotional trauma arises, causing anxiety, depression, PTSD, and feelings of worthlessness and shame

To commence the healing process for FGM survivors, one must create safe and supportive surroundings to share their experiences without fear or judgment. By developing support groups led by survivors and managed by specialists, FGM survivors can connect with similar victims, generating a sense of community that validates their feelings and aids collective healing. 

Access to Comprehensive Medical Care

Providing access to comprehensive medical care is vital for the health and well-being of FGM survivors. Immediate as well as long-term health complications must be appropriately addressed through coordinated medical care. Working together with healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable and sensitive to the specific needs of FGM survivors is crucial. Medical interventions, such as reconstructive surgeries, can help restore both the physical and emotional well-being of survivors and are highly recommended where appropriate and desired.

Empowering Mental health Support

Specialized therapists trained in FGM-specific counselling approaches can use various therapeutic techniques to help survivors cope with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. These strategies may include cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, or other evidence-based modalities tailored to the specific needs of the individual. By enabling survivors to reclaim their sense of self-worth, mental health support can be an essential step in the healing journey.

Fostering Economic Empowerment 

By equipping survivors with the skills and resources to pursue meaningful careers and start businesses, economic empowerment helps enhance their self-esteem and confidence, enabling them to live more fulfilling lives. It’s also significant to recognize that economic empowerment can have a broader impact on communities. As survivors become role models, they can inspire future generations to pursue education and economic self-sufficiency, ultimately breaking the cycle of FGM.

In addition, awareness campaigns can help to debunk the myths that surround FGM, educate people on its negative impacts on individuals and communities, and create a platform for dialogue around the issue. Community outreach and engagement, through media and local events, can reach vulnerable and isolated populations, providing them with information and resources necessary for change.

Advocacy efforts can strengthen the capacities of communities to tackle social norms. Simultaneously, awareness campaigns can help educate and engage communities on the negative impacts of FGM and promote community dialogue.

Something to Remember

The journey of FGM survivors toward complete recovery and empowerment is a critical step towards ending the cycle of gender-based violence. The provision of holistic resources and support is deeply needed for survivors to transition from being victimized by FGM to overcoming its effects. The collaborative effort to eliminate FGM must be coupled with sufficient provisions for its survivors to create a future where women and girls can live free from such harmful practices.