Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) continues to be a global concern due to its adverse effects. One of the objectives of the United Nations Standard Development Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) is to eradicate FGM from the world by 2030. The World Health Organization defines FGM as comprised of all the procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to these organs for non-medical reasons. Depending on the severity of the procedure, it can be split into four forms: clitoridectomy, excision, infibulation, and “others,” including piercing pricking or scraping. Studies show that the retrogressive practise is more prevalent in Africa and that about 90 million women and girls have undergone FGM. A qualitative study seeking to gather information on the women’s experience of FGM, the meaning of these experiences, FGM procedure, among other matters concerning the topic, was conducted in the city of Strasbourg, eastern France. The main study involved 13 Djibouti women who had migrated to France. Some of them underwent FGM during their teenage years in Djibouti. The primary data collection was done through face-to-face interviews with each of these women was questioned and responded to while recording the conversations. Data analysis involved transcribing the voice recordings followed by open coding and thematic analysis using the NVivo statistical software used for qualitative data analysis.
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Research studies can use either qualitative, quantitative methods, or both to answer research questions. Qualitative research design is one, which is considered to be a subjective study, where the findings are given in terms of a narrative format, as opposed to numerical analysis. Therefore, it varies depending on the method used to collect the data, such as systematic document reviews, observation, focus groups, and face-to-face interviews. The main reason for using this study design is to gain a reach understanding of the concept under investigation, thus, providing more details from a small sample of participants. On the other hand, quantitative study refers to a systematic exploration of a given phenomenon by collecting quantifiable information and using computational or statistical methods to gain understanding of the issue (Bloomfield & Fisher, 2019). Thus, every aspect of the gathering of the information is considered in terms of numbers.
This research used a quantitative study design to gather information regarding women’s experience with FGM. According to Bloomfield and Fisher (2019), a quantitative study enables researchers to explore and describe various concepts regarding the subject under study. In this context, the quantitative approach taken helped the current survey to determine women’s encounters with FGM and what those experiences mean to the participants based on their various quantified perceptional values. The women were supplied with Google drive forms, with specific values relating to the different levels of quantities. The women thus ticked the numbers, rates, or nominal values, which they believed answered the questions asked by the researcher. This approached was essential in knowing the specific number of respondents who provided a certain number of answers, which was then used to make conclusions regarding the question asked.
Research can utilize either primary or secondary data, or both to fulfill the research objectives. A primary data is collected first-hand for the first time by the researcher. Primary data collection is an involved process, while secondary data collection process is quick and easy. On the other hand, secondary data is one which already been collected or produced by researchers in other studies. The current research utilized primary data to explore the experiences of women regarding FGM. This research used semi-structured face-to-face interviews in the data collection process since there is no prior knowledge about the participants’ ability to read and write. The selection of interviews as a data collection method is consistent with some of the guidelines given by McGrath et al. (2019). McGrath et al. (2019) state that “qualitative research interviews are preferable when the researcher strives to understand the interviewee’s subjective perspective of a phenomenon rather than generating generalizable understandings of large groups of people” (p. 1002). In research, an interview is a conversation between an investigator and a respondent in which the former seeks to gather information from the latter by asking questions.
The targeted group was thirteen Djiboutian women of eighteen years and above who understood either English or French and had lived in Strasbourg, France, for at least five years. The main reason why the researcher was interested in interviewing these women is the fact that they originate from a country (Djibouti) with solemn beliefs about the cultural significance of FGM. Furthermore, specific information has it that sixteen of the women had undergone FGM during their teenage years. At the time of the research, eight of the women were enrolled in various social science and humanity courses at the French universities and colleges.
The study used opportunity or convenient sampling to select a sample population. With this sampling technique, an item can be obtained by taking the opportunity of their availability by choosing whatever sample is present (Sarstedt et al., 2018). According to Sarstedt et al. (2018), “convenience sampling will most certainly not yield a representative sample, because sample units are only selected if they can be accessed easily and conveniently” (p. 5). In this study, it was convenient for the researcher to select the Djiboutian women who were in France without having to travel to Djibouti or any other place in the Horn of Africa where FGM prevalence is high to conduct a study. The latter option is more costly, riskier, and more unpredictable.
Data Collection Procedure
To identify and recruit the participants, a trusted go-between was used to reach them by phone, after which an introductory letter explaining the purpose of the research was then sent to them. If they agreed to be interviewed, the research was then orally explained, after which the women signed an informed consent form. Respondents were recruited and interviewed until there was no new information acquired. Data saturation was achieved by the time the first eight women were questioned. The interview was guided by a topic list based on the FGM process, the experience of those who had undergone the procedure, and the cultural significance of the practice. Those who had not experienced the act were interviewed with the assumption that they had learned it from the victims, leaders, or knowledge from reading books.
The interview was conducted in English or French, depending on the interviewee’s choice. The choice of interview time, date, and the location were left to the interviewees to decide and communicate promptly to the researcher. Most of the respondents preferred to be interviewed at their homes, where they felt comfortable and free to speak. Others who did not want their husbands to learn of their participation chose different settings. On average, each interview lasted one hour, and during this time, the researcher recorded the conversation using a mobile recording device and noted important points. At the end of each interview, the investigator thanked the interviewee for sparing time to be questioned. The researcher also issued her contact information to willing participants who might later want to provide additional information for the research.
Validity and Reliability of the Research
Regarding the validity of the research instruments, the researcher is convinced that the interviews gathered the intended information. Valid tests or methods measure the data they claim to measure. Mohajan (2017) asserts that validity explains how the collected data covers the area under study. According to Field (2005) (as cited in Mohajan, 2017), validity essentially means “measure what is intended to be measured” (p. 28). Transcription is a key factor during research, and care should be taken to ensure that poor records which adversely affect the research are avoided. An article by Halcomb and Davidson (2006) (as cited in Azevedo et al., 2017), “transcription is the process of “reproducing spoken words, such as those from an audiotaped interview, into the written text” (p. 161).
Transcription has advantages to the interviewer and interviewee in so far as transforming the recording into text is concerned. Transcribing interviews helps in reducing shortcomings caused by mere intuition, remembering of information, and biases. Transcription also allows for multiple observation of the interview content, information sharing, and reuse or re-consideration of data in other scenarios (Azevedo et al., 2017). Each interview was conducted in a quiet and comfortable environment to ensure that the researcher’s recording device made clear voice records. Although there are no effective transcription methods, verbatim translations, which include pauses, repetitions, and tonal variations, might help to invalidate the results. Verbatim transcription refers to word-for-word reproduction of voice data such that the written words are a replica of the recorded words (McGrath et al., 2019). Verbatim transcription was an instrumental technology in analyzing the participants’ responses.
As for the research’s reliability, it is critical to establish the consistency and reproducibility of the data collected. If a method gives stable and similar results and relatively consistent conditions, then it is reliable. The test result should be consistent for different entities. With regards to Mohajan (2017), reliability is concerned with the scores obtained for each instrument part after a specified number of trials. It is affected by various random errors which arise during the investigation. A high random error depicts lower instrument reliability in data collection. In this study, asking the participants the same questions and getting the same or related answers implies that the research method was reliable.
A pilot study was proposed to forecast the outcome of the actual research. According to Lowe (2019), “a pilot study is a small feasibility study designed to test various aspects of the methods planned for a larger, more rigorous, or confirmatory investigation” (p.117). Lowe (2019) points that researchers use pilot studies to assess the suitability of their planned techniques and processes. It involved interviewing two Djibouti women two weeks before the actual research. Since there was a relationship between the two sets of data, the research was reliable.
Once all the thirteen participants were interviewed, the collected data was converted into an anonymous form, and the voice recordings were transcribed verbatim by the investigator. To further confirm the reliability of the data, the researcher coded the interviews and analyzed them thematically using Transana statistical software and manually. Open coding was used in the thematic analysis of the themes captured by the interview questions. The preferred coding system, preliminary study results, and the inconsistencies during coding and thematic analysis were deliberated with the research team to guarantee the credibility of the outcome. During the discussions, some codes were modified or incorporated into the coding system. Quotations from the interviews done in French were also translated into English.
FGM is a sensitive matter which needs to be handled while collecting data from the sample population since insensitivity on the researcher’s part would culminate in participants’ resentment and deliberate refusal to be interviewed. Therefore, the researcher had to consider some ethical practices while conducting the study. Firstly, to ensure the reliability of research results, a pilot study was conducted on two Djibouti women who would not appear in the main study. They were informed of the research purpose, after which they responded to the interview questions. Their response was later compared with the results from the actual study. Secondly, the respondents were not coerced or forced to participate in the study. Provided they had understood the purpose of the study, they were allowed to sign an informed consent form which indicated that they would be interviewed willingly.
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Thirdly, the participants were assured, and indeed, it occurred that their responses were treated with the utmost confidentiality and were to be used for academic purposes only. Furthermore, during the research, the interviewees did not disclose their real names and other personal information but instead remained anonymous. Before commencing the interview, the interviewee was reminded of the purpose of the study without deception. The respondents were also instructed to stop the interview if they are incapable of completing it. Debriefing was also done by calling the participants to request them to participate in the interview. The action enables the interview to be mentally prepared for the process. Lastly, the researcher was careful not to make insensitive and derogative remarks when conducting the interview.
Limitations of the Study
One main challenge during the study was the language barrier between the researcher and the participants, as the respondents did not understand English. The process of searching for interpreters is time-consuming and costly. Furthermore, the study population was small and hence could not be entirely relied upon to provide satisfactory results. If only the number of participants could be increased or if a different respondents’ group could be interviewed, more insights could arise hence promoting better understanding. Only the women and girls participated, though men could also have valuable insights, which can help revolutionize the fight against FGM.
During the interview, the researcher learned that most of the interviewees were strongly opposed to FGM. Two of the women who had not undergone FGM out rightly stated how they loathe the procedure. This opposition could have resulted in biased responses among the interviewees. As Sarstedt et al. (2018) observe, convenience samples (samples from convenience sampling) may be biased, although they seem accurate. The researcher’s inexperience in research meant that she could not effectively handle the study limitations. It was also time-consuming and expensive to do the transcription and conduct a pilot study. The article by Azevedo et al. (2017) explains that transcription requires a substantial amount of time, physical, and human resources. The common challenges with transcription are the quality and volume of the recording and circumstantial factors such as background noise or interference.
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