How We Worked To Eradicate FGC

Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality prefers to use the more sensitive term Female Genital Cutting instead of Female Genital Mutilation out of respect for the millions of women and girls around the world who have undergone the procedure and live with its consequences.

From 2008 to 2010, WISE collaborated with a local partner organization in the area Dair El Nahia region of Giza, Egypt to work with FGC practitioners to stop performing the FGC procedure. We identified common practitioners, ie. barbers and midwifes, who were performing between 120-180 FGC procedures a year and included them in a pilot project combining religious education and income replacement strategies in eliminating the practice of FGC in Egypt’s slum areas. 

The economic status of FGC practitioners represented a key challenge, as it was a major impediment to the cessation of these procedures. For this reason, extending other income-generating activities and obtain comparable income levels was essential. This strategy gave the practitioners the financial sustainability, enabling them to abandon the practice of FGC.

In addition, providing the practitioners with religious training in the form of accurate scriptural interpretation and guidance on conveying messages to clients and others was crucial for terminating FGC practices. The religious training, which included an affiliation with a respected teacher and a certificate from the well-respected Al-Azhar University confirming that FGC is un-Islamic, gave the practitioners the religious authority to stop the practice themselves and advocate for its cessation throughout their communities.

After the success of the pilot programs, additional advocacy seminars and educational sessions on FGC for Dair El Nahia residents were planned, and incentives were offered to families who agreed not to allow their daughters to undergo the practice.

OUR IMPACT

In phase one the program effectively reduced the rate of FGC in the Dair El Nahia region of Giza, Egypt:

  • Two of the major pilot project practitioners stopped all FGC practices: Neither Amin the barber nor Zeinab the midwife conducted any procedures during their project periods. Additionally, neither has reverted to their old practices in the months since the project ended.
  • Amin regularly committed FGC illegally so he could financially support his wife and three children. After receiving educational training demonstrating that FGC is un-Islamic and harmful to women and broader society, he stopped the practice When WISE invested in purchasing new tools for his barbershop, allowing his business to grow. Amin proudly displays in his barbershop a declaration from Al-Azhar University that FGC is un-Islamic and haraam (forbidden).
  • Zeinab agreed to stop practicing FGC in 2009 in exchange for an investment in her upstart fresh poultry store. She has since been able to employ two women as her helpers opening her poultry shop. She is a proud entrepreneur.
  • Weekly monitoring indicated that the barber and midwife followed the program conditions 90% of the time: The majority of the non-compliance issues occurred in the initial weeks of the project and were related to hygiene (e.g. not wearing a clean uniform, not using hot water, not cleaning outside the shop).
  • The program has effectively resulted in 264 fewer FGC procedures: Best estimates indicate that the projects have resulted in 264 fewer FGC procedures in the targeted area annually, a substantial reduction.
  • The economic incentives program proved effective and replicable in deterring FGC: Based on the projects’ operating budgets, estimates are that it costs $16.66 to stop one FGC procedure by the health barber and $10.20 to stop one procedure by the midwife.

Phase two of the program targeted two additional FGC practitioners in Dair El Nahia, Giza:

  • Five awareness sessions were conducted monthly from June to October 2010, with 65 members of the Dair El Nahia region attending each session: 70% of the attendees were female and 30% were male. Sessions were held at the Youth Center in Dair El Nahia and outlined the legal, social, psychological, and health consequences of practicing FGC. Additionally, the religious aspects of FGC were explored through a discussion of the critical role men play in perpetrating and combating FGC.
  • Two training workshops educated community leaders on the hazardous effects of FGC on the health of women and girls: These Dair El Nahia workshops helped build a stronger coalition of advocates against FGC in the region.
  • Five families—one a month—were awarded economic incentives for agreeing not to allow their daughters to undergo FGC: Families were given 500 le for their commitment to stop practicing FGC.
  • Two former practitioners of FGC successfully transitioned off of an economic livelihood based on FGC:
  • Magdi, a former barber and practitioner of FGC, now works as a Tuk Tuk, or autorickshaw, driver.
  • Faiza, a former midwife and practitioner of FGC, now runs her own grocery store.