Rapid assessment on Female Genital Mutilation in Gedo
Background Somalia republic is at the Horn of Africa. It borders Kenya to the Southwest, Ethiopia to the west and Djibouti to the Northwest respectively. The population is approximated to be 8 million. Somalia is 632,000 kilometre sq. The country is divided into 16 provinces. Gedo is one of the southern region provinces. NCA initiated FGM program in Gedo Somalia after a consultation meeting with women leaders from Garbaharre and Burdhubo in August 2001. In this forum, the women requested NCA to assist them understand and develop strategies to address FGM in the Somali community. It was therefore proposed that, in order for the program to make an impact, it was prudent to target the entire sevenDistricts of Gedo region with a spilling effect to the bordering Districts of Mandera, Kenya and Dolo Ethiopia. Since then, NCA has organized consultation workshops, conducted three training programs for 25 Tots (carefully selected groups of women, men, boys and girls), provided training materials, translated documents for circulation, and distributed badges and T/shirts with anti FGM messages. Although all the above has been done, the war on FGM has just begun, it is estimated that 98% of the women in Somalia have undergone FGM, with 95% having undergone the severe type known as paranoiac or infibulations. NCA, FGM program may not have produced easily visible impact due to restrictive factors like, the short time the program has been implemented, deep rooted culture, lowlevel of literacy especially among women, insecurity, war and the impact of poverty that diverts attention to livelihood. However NCA endeavors to sustain continued activities aimed at eradicating FGM among the Somali community. Purpose/objective 1. Assesses the effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the trained Tot's2. Establish feasible action plan for each District to undertake community outreaches3. Effect action plan in each district4. Assess the impact of FGM program in the region5. Make appropriate recommendation for future intervention Methodology • Assessment design: Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies were utilized in this assessment. A triangulation method was used, where data was sourced with different methodologies from different respondents and the cross examined to establish facts. • Assessment sites and sampling procedure: The rapid assessment covered four Districts out of seven Districts in Gedo region, Southern Somalia. These are Elwak, Garbaharre, Burdhubo and Bardhera • Literature review: A review of relevant materials and documents on abandonment of FGM in the region was done. The focus was on the impact of those trained and the feasible outreaches carried.• Informant interviews: In-depth interviews were conducted with a cross-section of stakeholders. These included:-Trained Tots, religious leaders, youth, women leaders and community members. • Focus Group Discussion: A series of focus group discussion were held with the youth, women and religious leaders. These generated in-depth data on the status of FGM in their respective Districts and the way forward for the eradication of FGM in the region. A checklist of questions guided discussions and notes were taken Verbatim. Data management analysis • Quality control of data was ensured throughout the impact assessment. During the data collection process, the consultants ensured that all interviews were successfully carried out and issues needing follow-up identified. Interviews and the Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were recorded verbatim. Data was subsequently thematically coded for analysis. Quantitative data was analysedand presented. • A participatory approach was embraced, as respondents were involved in discussion and ultimately arriving at reasonable conclusions on the way forward for the eradication of FGM practices in Gedo region. Case studyCase studies of selected messages used to persuade communities' to abandon FGM practices with relevant lessons were compiled Key findings -It is clear that the silence on FGM is finally broken. Women and men jointly come together to discuss the effects of FGM. At the same time discussions on FGM have created a forum where the parents can discuss the future of their daughter as far as FGM issues are concerned. -The level of awareness and sensitization has tremendously improved, for example, 95% of the respondents in Bardhere and 90% in Garbahareey towns, 80% in Burdhubo and 56% in El wak have heard about anti FGM messages either from NCA staff, Tots, BBC, Shabelle or Mogadishu radios. -The position of Islam on FGM, which is, women are not supposed to be cut, have created many debates among Islamic scholars with no q'uranic references. This seems to have inculcated among the local population in the Districts leading to a change of perception in regard to FGM. -It was encouraging to note that an estimated 98% of the respondents revealed that they have in a way been influenced by the anti FGM messages. -Advocacy against FGM in Somalia needs to be approached with caution where people are sensitised to mobilise themselves to abandon FGM culture under supportive structures with external influence and experience sharing. -The use of Tots in awareness creation, sensitization and advocacy against FGM has been very effective and resourceful e.g. 14 out of 25 respondents (56%) in Bardhere for instance benefited directly from NCA TOT messages. They were able to mention the Tots names and the actual venues where the Messages are communicated. The villagers confirmed that the TOTs have held numerous sensitisation forums and house to house awareness creation visits -FGM is a collective cultural pattern with benefits and sanctions anchored in a broad system of social behaviour, collectively-initiated action tends to be more effective in achieving its abandonment than individual 'just-say-no' tactics. This is evidenced by the number of respondents who identified various stakeholders as their sources of the anti FGM messages. These sources include religious leaders, the media, and health providers, other NGOs on the ground and the NCA Tots. -As the linkage between women's concerns and community well being is established and their empowerment is brought into focus, it is essential to involve men in programming learning and deliberations involved in addressing FGM. -That information disseminated should be cautiously handled since this can create a mismatch. At another level the information can further be misinterpreted and misconceived. This was learnt from the Mandera declaration in December 2003, which was conducted to advocate for a change from infibulations (cutting the clitoris, labia minora, labia majora and the raw surfaces are stitched together) to Sunna (cutting of clitoris). The emphasis was on "…… if the community cannot abandon infibulations, then the clitoris should be cut". The declarationrecommended Sunna and discouraged infibulations legitimizing female circumcision. Constrains and Challenges. 1. Paradigm of religion and Culture. The Somali community are predominantly Muslim and Islam is considered more than a region but as a social system, culture and civilization. Most respondents still view FGM as an Islamic rite 2. Free movement of the Tot's was limited by increased insecurity due to clan and inter clan conflict hence advocacy campaign is yet to reach the rural community. 3. The programme relies on volunteers for all its implementation activities and advocacy. These volunteers often are not paid any incentives thus making it difficult to concentrate on the planned programme activities on the eradication of FGM. 4. FGM is seen as a source of income for those performing it. The practitioners reported that on average Sshs. 50,000 an equivalent of $3 is charged on every child that undergoes FGM. This is well illustrated by incisor Zeinab Birikh of Garbaharre when she says, "I raise my grand children from the earnings I make from circumcision but if I am given ready soup to drink I will abandon". Recommendations -NCA team should prioritise the youth because they are tomorrow's parents, are not wed to old traditions and can be influenced easily about the harmful effects of FGM. -There is need to support the Tots in the outreach programmes, build each groups' unique contributions, monitor, evaluate and reward the innovative efforts of the team for instance that of Bard here team. -Religious leaders should be involved in the fight against FGM and encouraged to build their technical skills in anti- FGM programme implementation. There is also a need for the position of Islam vis-à-vis FGM and women's sexuality to be clarified. -To avoid disharmony among community members, any approach used to address the practice of FGM should be comprehensive and integrated, involving all members of the community. Project staffs and volunteers need to be trained on conflict resolution and how to develop support groups to anti-FGM activities. This will enhance staff ability in choosing the right participants without basing selection on clan or family relations. A special effort to reach the marginalized communities to be made. -There is need to conduct more community/ district based training so as to provide friendly and effective message delivery and to educate distant and difficult to reach members of the community. The religious training at the district level and the movement of the AT team seemed to have evoked more discussions than any other intensive training undertaken outside the districts. -Train the practitioners as change agents and motivating them to inform and educate the community and families about the harmful effects of FGM. Also training the practitioners to have an alternative source of income (income generating activities) and giving them the resources or equipment they need to allow them to earn a living. -There is need for substantial I.E.C materials, including posters, calendars, leaflets, brochures, T-Shirts, songs, dramas, and videos. T-shirts for instance could read "stop girls' circumcision" Comments from the organisation This rapid evaluation was conducted in June 2004 and the findings have been useful to design and implement the activities for the year 2005. The findings and recommendation have formed the basic foundation of the way forward and highlighted areas of concern as well as the intervention strategiesthat need to be implemented. It is quite evident that FGM is and old cultural ritual that has been deeply entrenched in Somali customs. The practise is further compounded by the misinterpretation that FGM is an Islamic religion requirement. This posse over whelming challenges to criticize a lifestyle in a predominantly Muslim community. A lot more emphasis needs to put in advocacy and sensitization to reverse prevalence rate of 98%. This will no doubt require a sustained fight with resources both material and mankind.