Percent of the population with correct knowledge about FGC
“Knowing about” female genital cutting (FGC) refers to possessing specific factual information about the procedure, which may or may not affect attitudes toward it. The specific items to be tested to ascertain how well a population understands the FGC practice may differ from one country to another, but illustrative knowledge items include the following:
Legal: Is the practice of female circumcision legal or illegal in this country?
Religious: Does the Islamic faith require girls to be circumcised? (Note: the answer is “no”.)
Health risks: Are girls who undergo FGC at greater health risk than those who do not?
This indicator is calculated as:
(Number of respondents that correctly know about (the legal status/religious position/health risks of) FGC / Total number of respondents) x 100
The local term for female circumcision is generally used in this type of question, rather than the more technical WHO classification presented above.
Response to questions on survey. Surveyors may wish to ask more detailed questions based on the interviewee’s response. For example, if the respondent answers that girls who undergo FGC are put at greater health risk, a follow-up question could be, “Could you please give me some examples of health risks FGC poses?”
Evaluators should break down indicators measuring knowledge by age, sex, and education to better understand differences among these subgroups.
Representative survey of the population
An important first step in eradicating FGC is to raise awareness about the procedure and to expel widely held myths. Two three points that are useful to this end are:
that FGC is illegal in a given country;
that FGC is not mandated by Islam; and
that there are health risks (which can be potentially life-threatening) to performing FGC.
Information on the legal status of FGC may strengthen the resolve of community members to discourage the practice. And information on the position of the Islamic faith on FGC may dispel the widely held myth that women of Islamic faith must be circumcised.
These questions also serve as useful markers of progress in the wake of public information campaigns designed to increase awareness of FGC and to combat misconceptions about the practice.
Many working to educate people about FGC and eradicate the practice would argue that one of the strongest reasons for ending the practice is because it is a manifestation of gender inequality and the disempowerment of women and girls. However, this indicator does not assess how knowledgeable people are on the human rights perspective as it relates to this issue. Specifically, women’s rights and health are protected under major human rights treaties, including the International Bill of Human Rights, which includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment may also be applicable to FGC. The practice violates the rights of the child as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (USAID, 1997).
Even with useful and accurate knowledge of FGC, people may not change their attitudes or behavior. In areas where strong social convention affecting women‘s roles keeps FGC in place, those forces may predominate despite improved knowledge.
female genital cutting (FGC), knowledge, adolescent
“Female Genital Mutilation from a Human Rights Perspective”. African Voices. USAID Bureau for Africa, Office of Sustainable Development Vol. 6, No. 2 Summer 1997.