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What role can media play in ending FGM?

A conversation with Sangita Shrestha, Feed the Minds’ Communications Manager

On International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation today, Somtochukwu Ugwu, Communications Officer of SIRP Nigeria presents an interview with Feed the Minds’ Communications Manager Sangita Shrestha on the role of media in ending FGM.

Society for the Improvement of Rural People (SIRP) early last year started a project titled: Ending the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Akwuke community, Nigeria. This project was supported by Feed the Minds (FTM) an international development organisation based in the United Kingdom.

One key approach, which SIRP utilised during this project was the media. We adopted the use of various media tools like radio, social media, and town criers, which helped us in giving visibility to this project. Furthermore, it helped us to raise much-needed awareness about this practice. 

To help us we decided to feature the Communications Manager of Feed the Minds Sangita Shrestha on a Twitter chat titled: Using the Media to End FGM. This was important as we needed to learn from her about how we can utilise the media even more in our work; to end FGM here in Nigeria. It was important to note that after this chat we learnt a whole lot about this particular issue. This learning was not just for us, but also for every other person who participated in this conversation. One of the key lessons for us was to understand how to be intentional in our planning and development of various media campaigns to end FGM. Also worthy of mention is the need for us to be ethical and ensure that our media campaigns are carried out with our audience in mind.

All in all, it was indeed an eye-opener for us as we got to learn so much from this session. Here in this blog, I present a conversation with Sangita Shrestha, Communications Manager at Feed the Minds, on ‘Using the media to end FGM’. 

What do you understand by the term ‘Media’?

The term ‘Media’ refers to any form of communication that delivers information.

Media are the communication channels through which we disseminate news, information, educational, and promotional messages. 

The most important function of the media is to disseminate news and information to the masses.

What do you understand by the term FGM?

FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.’  

The practice has no health benefits for girls and women. But there are many dangers, including difficulty urinating, infections, complications in pregnancy and even death. Most cases of FGM are carried out on young girls between infancy and 15 years old. 

FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The World Health Organisation estimates that over 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). They also estimate that 3 million women and girls are at risk of FGM every year. 

Despite being made illegal in 2015, FGM is still practiced in Nigeria where ‘25% of women and girls, aged between 15-49, have undergone some form of FGM.’ (UNFPA).

What role(s) does the media play in our everyday lives?

The media play multiple roles in society and impact our daily lives in various ways. 

Media’s role in our daily life is crucial as through the media we get aware of various social, political, and economic activities happening around the world. 

Media also play role in shaping opinions and making judgments regarding various issues. As such we can also say that society is influenced by the media in many ways. I believe that with the right media tools and channels, we can reach different target audiences. 

How best can various end FGM activists and advocates use the media in their campaigns?

Reaching the right audience through the right media channels is important. Awareness is the key, and we should move towards awareness to action, for that media plays a crucial role.    

We know that by raising awareness of the dangers of FGM, delivering awareness campaigns in schools and within communities and engaging the community and religious leaders, change can happen. Media can be an effective and powerful tool in ending FGM.     

What are some of the features of a successful media campaign to end FGM?

Firstly, it is important to have a campaign plan and a well-designed campaign strategy. Also, we should not forget structured communications such as the right tools and right communications channels. Equally important is having clear and simple key messages. 

Also, the timeframe is important, and it is always good to target international days, and specific weeks and involve High-profile individuals (HPI), opinion leaders or influential community members in the campaign. The other factor to consider includes having a collaborative effort and joining hands with organisations and individuals working on ending FGM. 

Similarly, we should not forget the power of audience engagement that will lead us from awareness to action. Also, we should work towards establishing intergenerational end-FGM campaigners who will develop lifesaving skills and knowledge to continue advocating for the end of FGM in their communities.

What are some of your final thoughts on this topic of using the media to end FGM?

Female genital mutilation is a human rights violation that causes life-long consequences. We all need to work towards ending FGM. Firstly, we need to educate people and make them aware of the issue and the media is one important tool for us to reach our target audience. At the same time, we need to pay attention to ethical reporting and inform/train journalists on the importance of their role in ending FGM and bringing change to society.

Note: This blog is based on the Twitter chat session held on 25 November 2022, hosted by SIRP Nigeria. Sangita Shrestha was a Panellist for the session held on the topic ‘Using the Media to End FGM’.

Interviewed by: Somtochukwu Ugwu, Communications Officer, SIRP, Nigeria.


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