Nnamdi Eseme, Olachi Ojimadu & Nwachukwu Kelechukwu Lucky
It is said that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but young people aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow, they are making significant contributions to the world around them on a daily basis. They serve as today’s leaders, making significant contributions to the world around them, right now, right here. As the world commemorates Zero Tolerance Day, young people in Nigeria, are making giant strides towards ensuring that the practice of female genital mutilation is abandoned.
The World Health Organisation defines Female genital mutilation (FGM) as comprising all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. So far, an estimated 200 million women and girls have undergone the practice worldwide of which about 19 million are from Nigeria with many more at risk every day if the practice is not ended.
Because young girls are most at risk of undergoing the practice, it is important that youth are at the fore in addressing the issue at local, national or international level.
The use of the media
With the media considered an open space to express themselves, young people can harness the potential wide reach of the media to actively advocate against FGM. This can be done through hash-tag activism, blogs, interviews, etc. This will help create awareness on the harmful effects of the practice as sadly, many of the girls who survive female genital mutilation will grow up to face lifelong health challenges such as severe bleeding, urinary retention, cysts, infections, as well as future complications in childbirth.
But with the power of the media, rigorous advocacy campaigns, targeting religious leaders, traditional rulers, community leaders, women organisations and policy makers, etc, can create a galvanised a movement resulting in a paradigm shift in the practice.
Participation in decision-making
It is important to involve young people in leadership processes as they hold potentials to create a sustainable future. Although the world has long associated youth with risk-taking and recklessness, a stereotype pointed at a bad generation, young people in Africa are an untapped resource that could change the face of the continent for better. As Kailash Satyarthi puts it:
“The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm, and courage of the young people.”
If we must end FGM in one generation, young people have to be involved in policy formulation and last mile implementation. The world cannot continue to build the future for the youth but build youth for the future at this time when the world is at a critical crossroad of fighting inequality and injustice by ending a practice that has put millions of women and girls through severe physical and psychological trauma.
What is YNCSD doing to end FGM?
The Youth Network for Community and Sustainable Development (YNCSD) currently coordinates all youth bodies working to end all forms of female genital mutilation in Nigeria. The Network is catalysing social change by engaging young people and amplifying their voices to speak for the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation through targeted advocacy to key players, capacity building and development, communications and media engagements, partnerships and program implementation. Through the work they do, they have been able to see communities owning the campaign and publicly declaring abandonment of the practice. With continuous effort, the practice can become a thing of the past.