Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a deeply rooted culture that has manifested many several harmful effects on women & girls. Programmes Officer for Safe Hands For Girls Maria Saine shares the work of her organisation and explains the role that youth can play in ending FGM and other harmful practices.
Although youth are not the only drivers of social change, they are much more visible and should be regarded as key actors. The hope for the future generation is in the hands of the youths, not the old generation. A global issue such as FGM needs the attention and full participation of youths for it to end.
Behavior change approaches that are centered on youths will go a long way in advancing youth participation in the campaign to end FGM. Youths can influence change at homes, schools, leaders, communities, and even the world at large. Young people can also help influence their peers as advocacy requires a collective, not individual effort.
Safe Hands for Girls (The Gambia) is a survivor-led youth organization that works on ending FGM. Most of the work we’ve done have been centered on youths through our project “Ending FGM in a Generation”. This is because of the power youths have if they take the stance to end FGM in their generation.
We’ve organized different activities and community outreach programs in partnership with other grassroots organizations with the youths as our primary target. Currently we’re carrying out regional school outreach on FGM where the health effects of FGM and the legal implications of the practice of FGM (as FGM is criminalized in The Gambia) are discussed. We also use this opportunity to get students to form peer groups and join the team to advocate against the practice to end FGM in their generation.
There has been a great involvement of youths in fight to end FGM in The Gambia and youth organisations are taking the lead in the campaign to end FGM. However in order to make progress that is sought to make the world FGM free, young people need to be motivated in directions that will achieve that goal. Major changes in law remain to be achieved. There is much to be done and objectives needs to be put in place and worked towards.
Different age groups in communities have their own duties and roles – youth are critical for society to attain sustainable development. This approach may appear to place a great deal of responsibility and reliance on young people to make it happen - but the future lies in their hands.
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