Building on our community entry exercise in Oyo and Osun states, Nigeria to kick off our SCALE Project to end FGM/C in the community, we deliberated with community members to ensure surveillance of against the practice. The project supported by Irish Aid, seeks to engage community members following feedback they shared with our team on the recent situation of FGM/C in their individual communities and the challenges they face as they put in efforts to encourage the abandonment of the practice. Part of the action points from that exercise was to formally set up the Anti-FGM/C Surveillance Team which would comprise the identified stakeholders.
Recently, our team visited Ward 4 Community in Ibadan-North LGA, Oyo state and Wanikin Community in Ife-East, Osun state to project-related community engagement. A formal inauguration was done for selected community members in Oyo and Osun state to serve in the Anti-FGM/C Surveillance Team. We developed a terms of reference document and designed a reporting template to outline the duties and responsibilities of the surveillance team and to guide them in reporting to YNCSD/Irish Aid.
During the inauguration meeting in Oyo and Osun states, we sensitized the surveillance teams on effective community-led approaches to curb all forms GBV such as FGM/C. To facilitate community ownership and ease of communication, we engaged a local translator during the meeting. We also allowed the newly inaugurated Anti-FGM/C Surveillance Team to discuss and agree on a working and reporting strategy.
The surveillance team in each focal community/state is made up of 7 persons (both men and women) who are indigenes of the focal community. The teams had members of the traditional ruling council, communal sub-group leaders, and Local Government Authority representatives. The Ministry of Women Affairs in both Oyo and Osun states were also present at the meetings and offered to provide oversight and technical support to the surveillance teams as needed.
The main functions of the Anti-FGM/C Surveillance Team are as follows:
- Support and provide community leadership in the design and roll out of campaigns to end FGM/C at the community level by ensuring all relevant community stakeholders are engaged as partners as much as possible.
- Develop strategies to monitor the incidences of FGM/C at the community level and devising means to ensure community members and households do not practise FGM/C and are made aware of the prevailing legislation and consequences of FGM/C. Part of the ways to deliver on this is to also engage with health facilities and birth houses, ensuring that the position of committee and community leadership is clear on zero-tolerance to FGM/C.
- Set up and convene periodic meetings and coordinate meetings at committee level to discuss lessons learned, challenges, and new steps to be taken to curb FGM/C in the community.
- Serve as an advisory body to the Traditional Ruling Council on matters related to ending FGM/C and other forms of violence against women and girls.
- Provide periodic reporting to YNCSD on the activities of the committee.
During the meetings, the teams shared strategies they will adopt in the planning of their community-based activities to end FGM/C and how they plan to report their progress to YNCSD. They planned to leverage on the traditional festivals where community members will gather to sensitize them on the need to abandon the practice of FGM/C. They also plan to sensitize women at maternity/ ante-natal wards of clinics and primary health centres. Member of the traditional ruling council members among our participants also added that they will raise the issue of FGM/C at ruling council meetings and will propose ways to improve the already existing local prohibition laws. The surveillance team members agreed to send monthly reports to YNCSD highlighting their successes, challenges and areas they would require assistance.
The next phase of the SCALE Project will feature an intergenerational community dialogue in Ward 4 community of Oyo state and Wanikin community of Osun state to encourage more community members of the community to take actions that will lead to the abandonment of FGM/C and other harmful practices. There will also be an evidence-gathering activity to measure the level of social norm change and to understand what norms currently underpin FGM/C in the focal communities.