Frontieri was commissioned to conduct Validation of global ACT framework by UNICEF/UNFPA in collaboration with University of Drexel, USA. The ACT Framework is a macro-level, global monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework designed to measure and track changes in social norms around female genital mutilation (FGM). Ethiopia and Guinea were selected to undertake the validation exercise. Validation data collection and analysis have been completed in Ethiopia. The following brief description incorporates the findings from the Global ACT field validation process in Ethiopia.
- Afar region requires intensive programmatic intervention to reduce FGM practice and bring about changes in social norms related to FGM.
- Special focus shall be directed to caregivers, community influentials and social networks to bring about changes in social norms related to FGM.
It is known that long-standing social norms are strong drivers of FGM. Broadly, speaking, social norms are the unwritten rules that guide human behaviour and exist at the interplay between behaviours, beliefs, and expectancies. Given the vital role that social norms play in both continuation and elimination of FGM, changes in social norms are found at the core of many programme strategies. However, these efforts are challenged by lack of commonly tested approaches, indicators, and tools for measuring changes in social norms. To address these challenges, the global United Nations Joint Programme (UNJP) commissioned Drexel University to develop a macro level global Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework, summarized under the acronym “ACT”, for tracking and measuring changes in social norms related to FGM. After the development of ACT, Ethiopia and Guinea were chosen as sites for the field-based validation of ACT. For this, Frontieri was commissioned to undertake validation exercise. Consequently, validation of ACT was conducted from August 16-September 4, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Afar, and SNNP. In total, 1146 structured interviews, 24 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), and 36 In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) were conducted. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected from adolescent girls, male and female caregivers, social network individuals and community influential individuals. The data collected for the validation exercise provided useful insights that assess the different sub-constructs of social norms as presented below.
The data revealed that perceived prevalence of FGM is relatively higher in Afar region, especially among adolescent girls aged 15-19 years, followed by social network individuals. In SNNP region, perceived prevalence of FGM is high among social networks, followed by adolescent girls aged 10-14. The lowest perceived prevalence of FGM is observed among adolescent groups of age 10-14 in Addis Ababa. Given that Addis Ababa is a metropolitan city, the perceived prevalence of FGM is generally low as compared to Afar and SNNP regions.
Perception about the trend in FGM prevalence is another indicator showing what people perceive as changes in FGM in the past and what people expect in the future regarding FGM prevalence. Majority of respondents in Addis Ababa stated that the number of girls cut had been much more five years ago as compared to now. Similar trend of results is found from SNNP region across the various respondents where the number of girls cut was much higher than had been five years ago as compared to now. In contrast, majority of respondents from Afar region stated that the number of cut girls remained about the same as compared to five years before. Looking forward, majority of respondents from Addis Ababa and SNNP regions responded that it would likely be much less as compared to now. In contrast, majority of respondents from Afar region stated that the number of cut girls would be about the same in five years as compared to now.
In both directions, the responses from Afar region show that the trend in FGM abandonment requires strong programmatic intervention to unlock the existing trend in perception.
The results on respondents’ likelihood of rewarding/punishing an individual in relation to their decision to abandon/perform FGM was examined. The data were collected using a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is very unlikely and 10 is very likely. The result depicts that respondents from Addis Ababa region have a higher likelihood to social sanction an individual who has decided to perform FGM with a mean value ranging between 8.2–9.1. In contrast, respondents from Afar region have a very low likelihood (mean value ranging between 3-5 – 6.4) to social sanction an individual who has decided to perform FGM and they have a very low likelihood (mean value ranging between 3.6 – 6.8) to reward an individual who has decided to abandon FGM.
The findings reveal some useful insights for designing programmatic interventions. Overall, interventions are needed in Afar region since the region falls behind in many social norm indicators as compared to SNNP region. Given that Afar region comprises both pastoralist and Muslim communities, FGM abandonment is particularly extremely low. For instance, the percentage of uncut girls is only 8 percent in Afar region (EDHS, 2016). Our data also indicates that perceived prevalence of FGM is relatively higher in Afar region as compared to SNNP; self-approval in FGM abandonment is low in the region and majority of respondents in Afar region stated that the number of cut girls would be about the same five years as compared to now. All these and relating measures imply that Afar region requires intensive programmatic intervention to reduce FGM practice and bring about changes in social norms related to FGM.
Given that, caregivers have the lowest percentage of respondents who expected the abandonment of FGM, it is important to focus on this segment of the population while designing intervention. In the same way, perception of caregivers, influentials and social networks to abandon FGM by self-decision is very low. Finally, the likelihood of imposing social sanctions and rewards associated with abandoning FGM are found to be low in Afar region in general and specifically for care givers, influentials and social networks. These findings imply that designed intervention programs are needed to address each specific member of society and special focus shall be directed to caregivers, community influentials and social networks.
Results from the framework validation processes in Ethiopia will be considered in order to finalize the macro-level tools and indicators and to release the final version of the global ACT Framework for use.
 Even though the data collected is not representative at national or regional level, it could provide some useful insights on various components of the sub-constructs of Social norms in relation to FGM in the survey areas.
 Central Statistics Agency (CSA) and ICF. 2016. Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (2016). Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Rockville, Maryland, USA: CSA and ICF.