On Friday, 24th of January 2020, the department of female genital mutilation (FGM) invited a class from the Berlin Diesterweg high school to the TDF head office. The 10th graders met with department assistant Lovina Okonkwo to discuss the various aspects of FGM. The students and their teacher already dealt with the subject in their philosophy lessons. The class now wanted to gain a deeper insight into the work of TERRE DES FEMMES against FGM. Furthermore, they wanted to exchange possibilities of student’s engagement.
In the first part of the informative meeting, the basics of female genital mutilation were explained. The different types, as well as the health and legal consequences were presented. The second, more interactive part of the meeting incorporated a lively discussion about the motifs of the practice and the risks of medicalisation of FGM. Finally, the department presented its sensitisation campaigns and international project cooperations which aim at overcoming FGM in Germany and abroad. Special emphasis was put on the so called “theory of change” according to which a sustainable change within a practising community can only be achieved if the willingness to change comes from within the community itself. For this reason, working with multipliers who are themselves members of communities where FGM is practised is the core of TERRE DES FEMMES’ work to combat FGM. The international projects in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone equally demonstrate that this method to raise awareness proves to be very successful.
Moreover, the group talked about the challenges of this community work: How can a girl at risk be effectively protected? How do you convince communities to end the practice and what should you consider in your sensitisation work? These and other questions were discussed by the participants.
At the end of the event, Lovina Okonkwo explained how students could get involved in order to combat FGM. For instance, they could organise exchange meetings like these to start with. In this way, they could educate other students and the general public. A workshop, a discussion or a project presentation on the topic female genital mutilation could help to spread knowledge. The more people are informed about the various dimensions of the practice, the more girls and women at risk can be protected and affected people receive support.
We thank the Diesterweg school for the exciting discussion and are looking forward to future exchanges.