In July 2017 I spent two weeks in Kampala, Uganda with fifteen most amazing, brilliant and multi-talented youths drawn from ten countries of the world. This was made possible by AIDOS (Italian Association for Women in Development) in the frame work of the project, “Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM/C” supported by the UNFPA—-UNICEF Joint programme on FGM/C
The diversity of the participants was amazing having representatives from Germany, UK, Portugal, Finland, Nigeria, Gambia, Egypt, Somalia, Uganda and my country Kenya. To add icing to the cake all participants were 30 years and below working on ending FGM in different capacities in their countries of origin. We had project officers, activists, actors, bloggers, founders and co-founders, medical practitioners, film makers, script writers, filming directors, creative arts and designers just to mention a few.
In my conversation with these amazing participants and the trainers it became evident that we need to be keen on the target group, purpose and context when coming up with End FGM messages. Slight mistakes could easily make the messages misunderstood.
This has made me to come up with my own classification of end FGM messages.
- Messages meant for fundraising and awareness in Europe and other Developed countries
This serves a very important role in the fight against FGM as the most resources that finance end FGM activities are sourced mainly from Europe and other developed countries. This message is meant to enlighten, sensitize, educate and motivate potential donors to support End FGM work. Though this plays a very important role this message may be not applicable in sensitizing local communities in Africa and other developing countries.
- Messages for community workers and Activists
This message helps in training and equipping community workers and activists with relevant skills and techniques on how to deliver end FGM messages to the target communities and groups. It also equips them on how to deal with different challenges, and how to be efficient and effective in delivering the intended message to the target groups. Remember the activists are already well versed on matters FGM and can consume a variety of messages to help them make informed decisions when dealing with community members.
- Messages for the youths
Currently we have the most youthful population than there has ever been in the history of our planet earth. Informed youth is one of the best resource that and community/country can have at its disposal as they are able to make informed decisions; and the vice versa is true. Young people though are quite impatient and to capture their attention we need to have the messages delivered in a youth friendly manner. These messages can be delivered via social media and other means deemed attractive to the youths depending with the context.
- Messages for elders and conservative communities
Most practising communities are patriarchal in nature and the elders are the custodians of the culture. Delivering anti FGM messages to them is always an uphill task as they are extremely conservative and simple terms like vagina and clitoris if not used well could jeopardise a whole intervention. Messages targeting them should be well crafted to take care of acceptable terms within the community. They should also be delivered by the right messenger as in some communities’ women are not allowed to address the elders or they should dress in a certain way when doing so.
- Messages for less conservative communities/groups
I am sorry but let me admit African communities are generally conservative and some words like vagina, clitoris and other terms that refer to female genitalia are normally not so comfortable with most people. Even the enlightened in the society find it quite difficult to mention them in public. As such we should be able to find out generally acceptable terms within the target group and context.
- Messages for children and adolescents
These messages should be presented in a child friendly manner. They should not do more harm to the children in the name of sensitization. There is need to avoid use of strong terms and graphic images that could do psychological harm to the group other than the intended good.
- General Messages
These are messages meant for all, they may include general statements like,” FGM has no medical benefits” among others. They mostly pass factual messages that are known to many based on scientific and medical researches among others.
To my fellow activists and other anti FGM crusaders we must choose the right messages every time we are doing our end FGM work.
Thank you @TonyMwebia