Resisting FGM through a public theatre

Statement of Need

A short overview of Boulaq El-Dakror:

Boulaq is the name of a poor area located in Giza. The people living there face major problems such as the shared housing. One family could be living in one small room, sharing one toilet with the rest of the neighbors on that same floor. In many cases there is only one bathroom on the ground floor for all the inhabitants of the building. The houses are not hygienic; their inhabitants suffer from poverty and malnutrition.
Generally speaking, Boulaq El-Dakror suffers from a lot of severe problems.

Firstly: The health problems

There is no health awareness neither of disease treatments nor protection against them. The people of Boulaq have no knowledge about healthy food nor about reproductive health. They are neither aware of the importance of regular health check-ups. The youth there tend to suffer from sexual suppression and have no sexual education.
This was a major reason behind the circulation/popularity of practicing FGM in Boulaq and the outbreak of many problems related to FGM. The people of Boulaq are unaware of the danger of FGM and its medical, psychical and social consequences besides its religious dimension.

Secondly: The social problems

In most rural areas social problems are widespread due to the lack of awareness, economic circumstances, inhabitant's accumulation, and the dominating old traditions such as FGM. Many people in Boulaq believe that women have to be circumcised in order to be virtuous and that FGM prevents perversion.
As a result, a lot of women suffer from sexual frigidity because they were circumcised several times and because they were taught to suppress their feelings and sexual needs, in order to appear inexperienced and well behaved.
Consequently, this effects the marital relation; husbands explain the women's behavior, that she is distancing herself from him sexually, that he does not satisfy her sexual needs.
So he starts taking sexual stimulating pills and in some case even becomes violent. He does not understand that the reason behind distancing herself from him is that she is sexual frigid due to the above mentioned reasons.

Cases in Boulaq El-Dakror:

*Mrs.(W) is 37 years old and is married to Mr.(S), who is 24 years old. Her husband works in a bakery. They have two children. Mrs.(W) suffers from sexual frigidity. One of the reasons is that she was circumcised twice. The first time she was circumcised by a nurse but her mother was not satisfied by the operation and called the midwife to circumcise her again.

On their first sexual intercourse, Mr.(S) was aggressive and violent, thinking that he is just being masculine. He was inconsiderate of her fears and worries. When Mrs.(W) distanced herself from her husband, he thought he was not satisfying her sexually and started taking drugs thinking that it would increase his sexual drive and got addicted to weed and other drugs, besides taking sexually stimulating pills. Now Mrs.(W) is asking for a divorce.

*A 45 year old woman, with mid-education, occupying a position in a governmental institution, is living in Boulaq El-Dakrour with her three boys and two girls. The woman let a doctor circumcise her older daughter, who got a nervous break-down right after seeing a girl getting circumcised in the same clinic.

In addition, the girl bled severely after being circumcised, which deeply affected her health state. However, the mother of the girl did not pay attention to the girl's state, thinking that her daughter's state is normal after her circumcision.

Nevertheless, after a short while the mother's sister got circumcised and got an infection where the operation had taken place and bled to death. The 45 year old mother (her sister) got shocked though she never considered letting a doctor check up on her circumcised daughter.

The years passed by and the daughter got married however, her sexual relationship with her husband was unsatisfactory. This burdened their marriage and caused a lot of tension between the two partners. The girl remained unhappy with her marriage. In conclusion, the 45 year old woman paid the price twice, having approved to let her sister get circumcised and watching her die, and causing her daughter problems in her marriage by making her get circumcised.

*A 14 year old girl in the third grade did not get circumcised, not out of awareness of the circumcision's danger, but because the parents were suffering a lot of problems in their relationship, they were too busy to think about circumcising their daughter.

However, after the daughter grew up and started talking to her colleagues about circumcision, she was told that circumcision makes girls more "well-behaved" and "marriage-material".

In addition, she was also told that she wouldn't be able to marry if she weren't circumcised. After finding out that the girl was not circumcised, her colleagues started to become more distant and the girl felt left out and miserable.

As a result, the girl asked her mother to let her get circumcised, however the mother insisting on postponing it until the summer vacation. Nevertheless, as soon as the sociologist at the Center for Egyptian Women heard of the girl's situation, he rushed to the family's girl to talk to her and her mother about the danger of circumcision.

The project:

The Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA) has a long experience in female genital mutilation, as the center has worked hard on spreading awareness concerning the issue and its danger in Boulaq El-Dakrour. In addition, the center has increased lawyer's awareness on this matter and trained them to use international agreements to fight female circumcision.

Furthermore, the center has provided the lawyers with a training booklet on cases concerning violence against women, which include circumcision, honor crimes, and incest. Last but not least, the center has worked on raising the legal awareness of cadres of NGO's concerning this matter.

Moreover one of the biggest obstacles, Ngo's and institutions resisting FGM face is the sensitivity of the issue and that it is regarded as a taboo. Many women and girls are not offered the chance to speak openly about the problems FGM cause them or about the physical and psychical pain they went through whether during the FGM operation or in their sexual relation with their husbands.

They were brought up on hiding and suppressing their emotions and fears. All this was the reason for Cewla to adopt the case of FGM in the past and continue to do so with developed methods and strategies in order to resist FGM.

Description of Project

Since Cewla believes that the first step to solve any problem is to raise it and discuss it, Cewla will offer these girls and women, through this project, the chance to express themselves and to talk about their experience with FGM whether through documenting their own experience in small booklets, drawing or by telling stories of other women and their experience with FGM.

Those women and girls besides many other youth will be prepared as Cadres to spread information about FGM and its danger among the people of Boulaq .

Further on, the center has discovered during its tremendous efforts it made to prevent female genital mutilation, that the media has a major influence on the case, either positive or negative. Therefore, the center has thought about enhancing and modernizing its mechanism and using different methods in fighting female circumcision.

The center thought about approaching the case from a legal aspect, as female genital mutilation is considered one of the many faces of violence against women. In addition to producing booklets and posters, in which the young victims would express their opinions and experiences with circumcision, the center has thought about constructing a local theatre in Boulaq El-Dakrour.

The theatre will mainly be consisted of young women and men, who show plays about the topic circumcision. These plays will take place in Non-Governmental Organizations in Boulaq and Boulaq's center for youth and will be attended by the people of Boulaq and FAMOUS artists and public figures.

In addition, at the end of every play there will be a discussion on the play and the issue of circumcision. Furthermore, a huge public conference will take place at the very end of showing these plays.

The general goals of the project:

1-Increasing the awareness of Boulaq's people in general and especially the youth, concerning the many different aspects of circumcision: the physical, psychological, sociological, legal and religious aspects.
2) Offer youth the chance to express themselves and talk about their emotions and fears by producing the booklets, posters, stickers and performing the theatre plays.
3) Raise the problem of FGM among Boulaq's people with the help of the cadres and the booklets, posters and the theatre plays.

Activities of the project:

1) Hold workshops for the target group to train the cadres on communication and conviction skills, writing, storytelling and acting skills.
2) Hold sessions for the target group to give them information about FGM and its danger .
3) Produce the booklets, posters, stickers .
4) Perform the theater plays in front of the people of Boulaq.

The target group:
The population of Boulaq and a specific group of Boys and girls from the age of 17-21, which will be used as cadres.

Training Activities:

The specific target group includes 70 boys and girls (age 17-21).

The target group will be trained on the following topics:

1) FGM and its psychical, social, legal, religious and health aspects.
2) Gender .
3) Conviction and communication skills.
4) Writing, story telling and acting.

2 Doctors, 2 specialists on gender issues and 1 director and scriptwriter will train the specific target group on the above mentioned issues.
The FGM and gender workshop will last each 5 days. The gender workshop will also include training on communication and conviction skills.
The acting and writing workshop will last for 15 days.

The period set to carry out the project:

18 months .

Carrying out the project:

The project will be carried out with the help of the following steps:
1) The project will be announced in the various NGO's and youth centers in Boulaq El-Dakrur. A number of 70 boys and girls will be chosen to and will be trained on FGM and its danger and Gender Issues. There will be two FGM workshops and two gender workshops each lasting 5 days.
2) Since the number is too big the best boys and girls will be chosen out of the FGM and gender workshops conducted in the first step. They will attend the specialized workshops on communication and conviction skills and writing and storytelling skills.
They will be divided into three groups, 20 persons each. In the end we will have 60 fully trained caders who will start producing the booklets and act at the end of the workshops.
A number of directors, scriptwriters, doctors and gender lecturers' will be conducting these workshops and assisting them in preparing the plays.
3)The cadres will spread and present what they produced through the above mentioned steps..
4) 6 theater plays will take place at the youth center in Boulaq and 5 other will be performed in NGO's in Boulaq to gain there support. Each play will take half of an hour plus a discussion round after each play lasting for one hour.
Of course, everything the cadres produce will be documented plus recording the plays, which can be used as a tool to resist FGM. All this can be sent to the financial donor of this project to see the fruit of the cadre's hard work.
The booklets, posters will be distributed on the audience and the cadres of other NGO's.And to encourage the cadres, they will be financially rewarded for their efforts.
5) Evaluation and Follow-up .

The Project will be evaluated in three ways:

a. The specific target group will be asked to write and in-depth report after one year (in the middle of the project) stating their thoughts and remarks about the whole project and if they feel that any change was achieved.
b. Interviews will be conducted with the specific target group after each discussion round that takes place after each play.
c. A professional evaluator will be hired to write an overall evaluation of the whole project.

As mentioned above, the posters, booklets, and recorded plays can be used in future workshops or lectures and can also be shared with other organizations working on FGM.

Expected Outcomes:

1) Having young cadres who are able to spread information about the danger of FGM among the people of Boulaq.
2) Raise the girl's self confidence by giving them the chance to speak up and talk about their emotions and fears.
3) Have many booklets, posters and video recordings of the plays which can all be used to resist FGM in the future.
4) Clarification of the religious, legal, social, psychical, health dimensions of FGM and correct some of the erroneous information about FGM.

The primary persons responsible for the project are Azza Soliman, general Director of the center and Hadil El-Khouly, translator working in the international relation unit in the center.

©All rights reserved 2004