How We Are Working To Eradicate FGC

From 2008 to 2010, WISE collaborated with a local partner organization dedicated to raising awareness about discrimination against women, in an effort to reduce the number of FGC cases in the Dair El Nahia region of Giza, Egypt. WISE worked with the partner organization to create a replicable program that promoted the elimination of FGC through religious training sessions and financial incentives for FGC practitioners to stop performing the procedure. The project to eliminate FGC as a common cultural practice was implemented in two phases.

In phase one, the project team identified two common practitioners of FGC, a barber and a midwife—Amin and Zeinab, respectively—who were receptive to participating in pilot projects. The provision of religious and monetary incentives was coupled with several supplementary conditions. These included ensuring the practitioners’ personal and business hygiene, workplace sanitation, religious observation, and routine communication with clients about FGC’s negative effects and lack of religious mandate. Lastly, a strong record of no longer performing FGC was required; otherwise monetary stipends allocated to FGC practitioners had to be repaid.

The results of these two pilot projects confirmed the feasibility and effectiveness of 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, offering income replacement for a sufficient period of time for FGC practitioners to begin or extend other income-generating activities and obtain comparable income levels was essential. This strategy gave the practitioners the economic security 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.

In phase two of the program, WISE and the local partner extended the 2010 project for another year in order to target two remaining practitioners of FGC in Dair El Nahia, Giza: Faiza, a former midwife, and Magdi, another barber. Faiza had been conducting 180 FGC procedures per year for thirteen years prior to participating in the project, while Magdi had been conducting an estimated 120 FGC procedures for the past five years.

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. As with the pilot programs, phase two of the project entailed the provision of economic support with income replacement strategies (temporary salary, training, and material resources) so that practitioners would not lose their economic livelihood after they ceased practicing FGC. Educational support through religious training was implemented in order to demonstrate that FGC is not religiously mandated. Lastly, accurate health and social information about the practice was administered.

[1] 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.

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 agreed to stop the practice in exchange for monetary compensation and new tools for his barbershop business. It has been well over a year since Amin committed an FGC procedure and he 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 other members of the community after opening her poultry shop.
  • 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.

See More

A video clip of Amin’s new barbershop.

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