UNICEF and UNFPA have recently warned that, due to COVID, at least 2 million girls are at risk of FGM. This risk is due to COVID restrictions and the associated lack of movement, inhibiting prevention practices related to not only FGM, but also other gender based violence practices, such as child marriage. Increased risk of FGM has been identified as an issue all over Africa and UNICEF and UNFPA are asking organizations all over the continent to assess the current situation and need for intervention.
In Senegal, children were out of school for 8 months due to COVID-19-induced closures. During that entire period, grandmothers continued to bring neighborhood girls together for evening story-telling sessions and GMP intensified under-the-tree participatory learning sessions with girls and grandmothers to discuss COVID prevention measures and the risks of teen pregnancy, FGM and child marriage.Small group Women and Girls forums have continued in many communities and Grandmother Leaders have been active throughout the communities with whom we collaborate. In fact, throughout the pandemic, Grandmother Leaders have been responsible for stopping and preventing many cases of gender based violence, such as child marriage and FGM.
Girls alone cannot stop these ingrained and harmful traditional practices; they need the wisdom and support of the grandmothers. Training grandmother leaders is a sustainable way to prevent FGM – even in times of distress, such as the COVID pandemic. Grandmother Leaders’ work continues regardless of obstacles – they are girls’ strongest advocates for change.
Due to the Coronavirus, schools in Velingara have been closed since mid-March and will not reopen until November. There are no distance learning opportunities, as most families do not even have a radio or schoolbooks. This situation puts girls at a higher risk for FGM, child marriage, teen pregnancy and drooping out of school.
Grandmothers play a role as guardians and transmitters of cultural norms and practices across Africa and in all contexts where FGM is practiced. In our approach, grandmothers are actively engaged, and they are given a central role in the process of abandonment. Other community members who influence FGM directly or indirectly are also involved in GMP-supported activities, catalyzing community-wide dialogue to promote community-driven abandonment.
Grandmothers are fundamental to the socialization and education of girls. Thanks to the support of grandmothers, girls’ fundamental rights and well-being are championed both within their families and the communities in which they live.
Grandmothers can help change harmful traditions.
Grandmothers ensure girls a safer, brighter future
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