Transforming Social Norms to end FGM in the EU: An Evaluation of The REPLACE Approach
BackgroundDespite numerous campaigns and interventions to end female genital mutilation(FGM), the practice persists across the world, including the European Union (EU).Previous interventions have focused mainly on awareness raising and legislationaimed at criminalizing the practice. Limited evidence exists on the effectiveness ofinterventions due in part to the lack of systematic evaluation of projects. This paperpresents an evaluation of the REPLACE Approach, which is a new methodology fortackling FGM based on community-based behaviour change and interventionevaluation.MethodsWe developed, trialed and evaluated the REPLACE Approach through extensiveengagement with eight FGM affected African diaspora communities in five EUcountries. We employed qualitative and quantitative tools to obtain data to inform thedevelopment, implementation and evaluation of the approach. These includedcommunity-based participatory action research, questionnaires and communityreadiness assessments. The research took place between 2010 and 2016.ResultsFindings suggested that the Approach has the capability for building the capacities ofFGM affected communities to overturn social norms that perpetuate the practice. Weobserved that community-based action research is a useful methodology for collectingdata in FGM intervention settings as it allows for effective community engagement toidentify, educate and motivate influential community members to challenge thepractice, as well as obtaining useful information on the beliefs and norms that shapethe practice. We also found that community readiness assessments, pre and postintervention, were useful for tailoring interventions appropriately and for evaluatingchanges in attitudes and behaviour that may have resulted from the interventions.ConclusionThis evaluation has demonstrated that the REPLACE Approach has the potential, overtime, to bring about changes in norms and attitudes associated with FGM. Its strengthslay in the engagement with influential community members, in building the capacityand motivation of community members to undertake change, in recognising contextualdifferences in the barriers and enablers of FGM practice and in tailoring interventions tolocal community readiness to change, and then evaluating interventions to re-informimplementation. The next steps would therefore be to implement the Approach over alonger time frame to assess if it results in measurable change in behaviour.