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INFLUENCE OF RADIO CAMPAIGNS AGAINST THE PRACTICE OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IN ABIA, EBONYI AND ENUGU STATES
- Background of the Study
The provision of information has gained popularity in the quest to empower the people through radio as an effective tool for communication at the grassroots level. Kumar (2004) identified radio as an avenue for participatory communication and as a tool relevant in both economic, social and health development. Radio can play a significant role at the grassroots level for rural development. For instance, issues of poverty, agriculture, gender inequality, education, and health matters such as HIV Aids, Ebola virus disease, Malaria, and female genital mutilation among others, could be the focus of radio campaigns. Communication is a vital component of healthcare delivery. Current research on health communication clearly illustrates the powerful influences of communication in healthcare delivery. Mass media campaigns can raise awareness of an issue, enhance knowledge and beliefs and reinforce existing attitudes Mustapha (2008, p.19).
In this regard, radio provides a set of participatory communication techniques that provide a platform for the discussion of health issues on female genital mutilation. This could be done through interactive discussions like phone- in programmes, group discussions and interviews mostly on the dangers associated with the practice of female genital mutilation using local languages to communicate directly with the people. Radio is very central to development because, it is a cheap medium for mobilization of people and information dissemination which provides solution to local problems. The mass media have been integral to many health campaigns globally, and in Nigeria in particular, they can also change attitudes and behaviours, especially when the change is simple and of obvious benefit to the intended audience. The mass media are referred to as the key component of global strategy for sustainable health issues. More than 60% of groups working on abandonment of female genital mutilation cite the mass media as a very important programme outlet PRB, (2002). For example, the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), broadcasts regular radio programmes (Ndukaku) encouraging the abandonment of female genital mutilation.
There has been a growing concern about the increasing wave of the obnoxious practice of female genital mutilation especially in the African continent, and the call for its eradication have dominated global debate. Nzeagwu (2005, p.55). Female genital mutilation is universally unacceptable, it is an infringement on the physical and psychosexual integrity of women and girls, and it is also a form of violence against them, WHO (1998). Health is wealth and the quality of human life depends on the quality of health, better health translates into greater and more equitably distributed wealth to any nation, this makes the campaign against female genital mutilation very necessary.
Female genital mutilation is a harmful traditional practice with severe consequences on the health and well-being of girls and women. Female genital mutilation is practiced in more than 28 countries in Africa, usually on girls under the age of 15 years, and in some countries in the Middle East and Asia. Female genital mutilation is also practiced by immigrant communities in a number of other countries, including Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States (HRP, 2006). For many girls and women, undergoing female genital cutting, it is a traumatic experience that leaves a lasting psychological mark on the victim and may adversely affect their mental health. In fact, several psychological and psychosomatic disorders such as disordered eating and sleeping habits have been attributed to female genital cutting (UNICEF, 2006). There are also reports of post-traumatic stress, disorder, anxiety and depression associated with female genital mutilation (WHO, 2004). The health consequences of the practice vary according to the procedure used.
According to WHO (2012), female genital mutilaton is recognized internationally as a violation of human rights of girls and women, and constituting extreme form of gender discrimination. The WHO estimates that 140 million women and girls in the world have been victims of some form of female genital mutilation and each year, 3 million girls are subjected to this harmful traditional practice. Given current birth rates, this means that about 2 million girls are at risk of some form of genital mutilation every year.
Prevalence rates of female genital mutilation are significantly different between states and ethnic groups. Remarkable differences are also found between the urban and rural areas. Researchers believe that “the amount and severity of female genital mutilation is greater in rural areas where cultural traditions and the marriage convention regarding female genital mutilation may be stronger and residents have less exposure to modern ideas” Horowitz & Jackson, (1995 p.87). In these areas, non-medical, traditional practitioners usually perform the surgery with any available sharp instrument. An exploration of attitudes toward female genital mutilation in Nigeria shows that 73 women, undergo surgery in hospitals and clinics as a result of female genital mutilation, Retlaff, (1999). Furthermore, women in urban areas demonstrate more accurate knowledge on the consequences of female genital mutilation than their rural counterparts, Orubuloye, I. O., Caldwell, P., & Caldwell, V. (2000). Young, urban women also criticized the act more than those living in rural areas Yoder & Henry, (2002). The practice seems to be declining in urban areas of many African countries as social norms have changed, Toubia & Izett, (1998). Urban areas receive modern ideas and health care more quickly than the rural ones accounting for the decline in the practice of female genital mutilation in the urban areas.
Orubuloye et al. (2000) assert that, majority of rural women and a slightly higher percentage of urban women in Nigeria have heard or read information against female genital mutilation. Furthermore, educated women are over twice as likely to report reading or hearing about female genital mutilation abandonment campaigns than the less educated ones, They further indicates that both women and men are influenced by these efforts. Occasionally, adult women also subject themselves to this practice as a consequence of peer pressure and inter marriage issues, Rice, (2001). Over 30% of respondents in their study, Orubuloye et al. (2000) stated that the reasons most women did not circumcise their daughters were due to the campaigns against it. They also found evidence of success owing to the fact that, some families have circumcised only the oldest daughter after learning about negative outcomes from public health programmes.
The role of mass media in community development cannot be overstated the media shape culture, influence policies, affect people’s attitude, play important roles in health and business as well as affect the daily lives of millions. This explains why Mustapha (2008, p.190), posits that without the media, it would be impossible for health promoters to disseminate information as well as monitor and co-ordinate the activities of various countries on health issues. To a very large extent, the mass media play a very important role in the enhancement of rural based development through broadcast programmes. Scholars like Folarin (2002), Severin and Tankard (2001), Nwosu (1999) and many others have all written on the role of the mass media in community development, and their common position is that the mass media facilitates community development. Moemeka (2012) postulated that “the radio is one of the medium of mass communication that is most appropriate for rural emancipation programmes. Media practitioners play very important role in bringing female genital mutilation to a stop because they have always brought up programmes that enhance rural development since the rural dwellers rely on the mass media for information on the dangers of female genital mutilation.
According to the US Department of State (2001), although no federal law prohibits female genital mutilation in Nigeria, the Nigerian government lists female genital mutilation as a “harmful traditional practice” and several states have passed laws banning the practice. Formal campaigns against female genital mutilation have existed in Nigeria since the 1980s. Those who defend female genital mutilation perpetuation argue that it is critical to preserve ethnic and gender identity, to protect feminity, to ensure purity and virginity, to guarantee the family honour, to assure marriage- ability and to maintain cleanliness and good health.
This study intends to ascertain the influence of radio campaigns against the practice of female genital mutilation in: Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu states. It also aims at finding out what the mass media have done through their programmes and messages, in ending the practice of female genital mutilation.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The mass media play a very important role in the enhancement of rural development through their different development communication messages. Development Communication is oriented towards the human aspects of development that uses all forms of communication resources to attract attention to development support programmes. Radio programmes such as “Let’s Talk about Health” on Broadcasting Corporation of Abia, (BCA), and “Your Health” on Ebonyi Broadcasting Corporation, (EBBC) and “Health Issues” Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (Coal City FM) are all health programmes. Through these programmes, the mass media discuss and discourage female genital mutilation, provide information to people in both rural and urban areas.
In previous radio reports, female genital mutilation has for ages remained part of the cultural practices in Nigeria. However, with the growth of civilization and education, people are beginning to be aware of the health complications associated with the practice of female genital mutilation. It is based on the health implications of female genital mutilation, that the Nigerian government, NGOs, and other International Organizations have stood up to fight this menace through campaigns and enactment of laws against the practice of female genital mutilation in order to uphold quality health for the women folk. As a way of creating more awareness of the negative impact of female genital mutilation, the mass media, especially those who use the media as instruments for community development have begun to campaign against the practice of female genital mutilation.
However, it is not certain whether radio campaigns designed to create awareness on the dangers of female genital mutilation are being broadcast often these days. The issue has been neglected and seen as a problem that concerns a segment or gender of people in the society. Other health issues have taken over almost all the radio programmes thereby giving the issue of female genital mutilation a minimal coverage knowing that, constant radio programmes on the dangers of female genital mutilation will influence the people into ending the practice. The problem of this study therefore is to assess the influence of radio campaigns against the practice of female genital mutilation in some selected south east states.
1.3 Research Objectives
This study aims at achieving the following objectives:
- To determine the level of knowledge created by the radio campaigns on the dangers of female genital mutilation.
- To ascertain whether the radio campaigns are reaching the target audience.
- To determine the extent the radio campaigns have brought about behavioural change among the people practicing female genital mutilation.
- To evaluate the barriers to the effectiveness of the radio campaigns.
1.4 Research Questions
In the course of this study, the following questions were generated to serve as guide:
- What is the level of knowledge created by the radio campaigns on the dangers of female genital mutilation?
- What categories of people listen to radio campaigns on female genital mutilation?
- To what extent do the radio campaigns on female genital mutilation influence behavioural change among the people practicing it?
- What are the barriers to the effectiveness of the radio campaigns?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study which is meant to examine the influence of radio campaigns against the practice of female genital mutilation in Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states, will provide positive orientation to the people practicing female genital cutting, especially, to those in the rural areas and reshape their ways of thinking, by providing them with substantial and tangible cases of the dangerous effects of the practice of female genital cutting.
The health sector with the result of the findings, would be able to identify the areas where the people need their help most and work towards finding a favourable lasting solution to the problems and complications caused by female genital cutting.
The result of this study would also confirm whether the media practitioners are effective in carrying out their functions as regards the type of health programmes they package concerning female genital cutting in the south east, and help future media practitioners in designing and packaging their messages in a way it will appeal to their targeted audience.
Finally, this study stands to benefit up coming researchers, as it would serve as a reference guide to them.
1.6 Scope of Study
This study, which seeks to assess the influence of radio campaigns against the practice of female genital mutilation in some selected states, intends to cover people in the following categories; students, farmers, traders, civil servants living in Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states of the south east of Nigeria. Ordinarily, the study ought to have covered the whole of the selected states, but this will make the research complicated because of the large number of people that would be involved, for this reason, the study was narrowed down to the senatorial zones in the selected states.