Time to end female genital mutilation in Nigeria: Interview with Chioma Ike, Executive Director of Circuit Pointe
Circuit Pointe, a non-profit organization founded in 2015, is based in the Southeast region of Nigeria. It aims to advance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), economic empowerment, and end all forms of violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation (FGM) through a wide range of specialist support services to young women and girls.
With the support of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), Circuit Pointe is leading a project entitled “Break the Cycle: End Violence against Women and Girls”. This is addressing the prevalence of violence against marginalized women and girls in Imo and Ebonyi States by empowering community structures and integrating local monitoring networks.
We talked with Chioma Ike, Executive Director and co-founder of Circuit Pointe.
Why is your organization’s primary focus Indigenous women and girls?
Indigenous women and girls in rural communities are particularly vulnerable to violence due to gender stereotypes and cultural practices, and their socio-economic status and limited access to support services. Our focus on this group stems from a desire to address these intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, and empower these women and girls to claim their rights.
Through our project, we train and engage Indigenous community leaders, health workers and members of women-led organizations to serve as gender advocates and work towards ending violence against all women and girls. We believe that our focus on Indigenous women and girls is crucial in creating lasting change and promoting gender equality in the region.
Your project uses the “5 As” building block model within communities. What does this approach entail?
The model involves five key steps: Alliance, Awareness, Accountability, Advocacy and Adoption.
In the Alliance step, we build partnerships with existing community structures, including with traditional leaders, to gain support for cultural change and new legislation. We also train female community members to liaise between the project and communities.
To raise Awareness about the negative consequences of violence against women and girls, we use a mixed media strategy. This amplifies the voices of survivors and supports gradual change in attitudes, values and perceptions.
The Accountability step involves community members in tracking and preventing violence. We have established a network of monitoring groups, comprising healthcare professionals, grandmothers and community women associations, to track cases of violence and report them.
In terms of Advocacy, we focus on driving social change from within the community by empowering 160 key influencers with resources and advocacy skills, to serve as role models and leaders. We use local-led strategies such as self-reporting and promoting community measures.
In the final step, Adoption, we hold intergenerational dialogues at the community level to reflect on values relating to violence against women and girls. This provides a platform for women and girls to voice their opinions and experiences, and shape the conversation about violence and its impact on their lives.
How do you mobilize traditional leaders and other key traditional actors to lead prevention and response work on FGM? Have you faced any resistance?
Traditional leaders have a significant impact on shaping community attitudes and norms, and their engagement is crucial in eliminating harmful practices. With their support, we can develop alternative, culturally appropriate practices that do not involve violence.
We are aware that some traditional leaders view FGM as an important cultural tradition and may be unwilling to abandon it. Similarly, some see intimate partner violence as a private matter that should be handled within the family. Holding open and respectful dialogues, as well as providing evidence-based information on the negative consequences of violence against women and girls, is crucial in managing this type of resistance.
In addition, our project engages with traditional birth attendants who unfortunately are often involved in the practice of FGM. Considering their potential as powerful allies, we conduct outreach and education initiatives to build their knowledge and understanding of safe birthing practices, gender equality and the importance of protecting women and girls from harm. We also provide them with alternative sources of income as well as training and resources to help them provide the highest quality of care possible.
Our ultimate goal is to empower them to be agents of positive change in their communities.