Review and critique of the piece
The authors of the article forming the basis of this review are Adewade O. Ashimi and Taiwo G. Amole. The title of their article is, “perception and attitude of pregnant women in a rural community in north-west Nigeria to female genital mutilation” (Ashimi & Amole, 2014).
The article talked about female genital mutilation. It is a report of a research conducted by the authors. Coming up with the report and publishing it as an academic article yields various outcomes for the authors. First, it allows the rest of the world, mainly other scholars interested in the subject of FGM, to access their work.
Secondly, it informs the public, practitioners, and other scholars about the situation in Nigeria, which is the area of study on FGM and the perception and attitudes of people. This can be relevant to advocates of stopping the practice or authorities seeking to enact policy on the issue.
The authors also intended to highlight the special case of Nigeria concerning FGM. The main fact is that the country has one of the most prevalent cases of residents having undergone FGM.
In addition, many of the documented cases have urban origins, thus the research and its report aimed to provide a balance in the information available about FGM in the country by examining the situation from a rural setting.
Female genital mutilation has no rosy outcomes and everyone who undergoes it loses a part of their body, leading to impairment. The above sentence is the thesis statement of the research, which is supported by the fact presented in the article that claims most people who undergo the practice have difficult childbirth.
Secondly, discontinuation efforts have been hampered by inadequate female education and empowerment (Ashimi & Amole, 2014).
The credibility of the findings presented in the research, which contribute to the conclusion and answer the research hypothesis, arise out of the methodology used by the authors. The research used a descriptive cross sectional study.
This is a qualitative method that captures various data in an unstructured form, though its interpretation may follow a structured form for the sake of making the analysis part possible. The authors relied on pretested structured interviews, where they tasked interviewers with the role of asking and collecting responses from participants.
The questionnaire used for the interviews was filled with perception and attitude questions targeted at women who were attending antenatal care. With the above method, the research found out that 79.3 percent of respondents were aware of the practice and tradition was cited as the main reason for the FGM activity by 34.4 percent of respondents.
A majority of respondents mentioned the need to ease child birth as the main reason for the practice, but they were not a clear majority. Other findings also showed that 39.1 percent of the respondents had undergone FGM and 21.5 percent the people who were aware of FGM were willing to ensure that their daughters passed through the tradition.
The authors also highlight different types of FGM and mention that ‘Gishiri’ cut and ‘Angurya’ cut are the most popular ones (Ashimi & Amole, 2014).
A key conclusion of the research is that the practice of FGM in the studied community is prevalent. Secondly, the main reasons for supporting the practice, tradition, and easing childbirth are not congruent with the reality of FGM effect; therefore, these reasons should no longer be used as the basis for continued harm to women and girls.
Overview, analysis and evaluation
FGM is a procedure or a practice that relates to the removal of some of the external parts of the female external genitals (Ashimi & Amole, 2014). Other than removal, it can also relate to purposeful injury to the external genital parts of females.
Across the world, about 100 million to 140 million girls and women have passed through various FGM practices; most of them did it involuntarily.
In Africa, the annual risk number is 3 million, a figure used by many sensitization organizations and activists to request assistance and to note the urgency of the menace (Feldman-Jacobs & Clifton, 2014).
According to UNESCO (2014), the most effective way of eliminating FGM is through education, which must be carried out at the local community level where the practice is deeply rooted in tradition.
Other than just making declarations about the need for dealing with FGM, UNESCO has been on the forefront in ensuring that member states actually perform the required functions to ensure that they defend cultural diversity as demanded by the organization, but at the same time they ensure that there is no violation of human dignity.
In essence, UNESCO promotes the respect of all cultures, as long as the promotion of culture does not become an excuse for infringing on human rights of individuals (UNESCO, 2014). The practice of FGM infringes on the rights of individual women and girls.
According to the WHO (2014f), better health is essential to happiness and well-being of persons, and it is an important facilitator of economic growth of societies.
Nevertheless, the maintenance of good health among societies is not simple, as health is intertwined with various social and economic issues, such as improvement of infrastructure to provide access to health services or maintenance of economic stability to ensure health spending has more utility.
A major aim of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to ensure that the scientific research agenda provides the basis of evidence-based solutions for various health problems affecting communities worldwide. Most countries have limited health resources, but they need to expand their health services.
WHO (2014b) recognizes the need for local answers to most community specific problems and it encourages all countries to act as producers of research, in as much as they are consumers of the same.
One of the ways to achieve the goal is to have all member countries establish codes of conduct for effective research practice and to use global and national research networks for collaboration and information exchange (WHO, 2014a).
WHO (2014a) runs various programs for health. Its public health, environmental, and social determinants of health category list various topics that govern policy and actual intervention programs, with FGM interventions benefiting from some of the projects on increasing health awareness.
WHO (2014e) programs for the protection of the human environment collect data on the prevalence of social problems and help to inform research and policy on the prevention and control of the identified issues.
All this falls along the common discourse on the determinants of health, which are physical environment, social, and environmental environment, as well as a person’s way of expressions and behaviors (WHO, 2014d).
Within WHO programs, there are specific intervention and researches under social determinants of health that seek to understand and correct social related problems that hinder better health. This is where FGM as a problem is tackled.
One of the issues is the understanding of unequal, unfair, and ineffective or inefficient gender inequity in health so that appropriate corrective programs are developed to address the problem (WHO, 2014c).
The article by Ashimi and Amole (2014) provides adequate background to inform readers about FGM. Citing the definition of WHO is welcome because it provides a universal recognition of the research basis.
Providing country-specific statistics for Nigeria, which was the focus of research, also enriches the literature review of the article and validates the interpretation of findings by the authors (Ashimi & Amole, 2014).
Within the existing body of research, the article on the research by Ashimi and Amole (2014) fits into the subject of understanding local community perceptions on FGM to note whether imposed guidelines on its prevention are a solution or a problem.
Interestingly, much of the associated literature on FGM already relies on data showing that the practice is bad and uncalled for, yet a majority of communities practicing it still refuse to abandon the practice.
It is possible that researchers and policy implemented are missing something and such research on understanding, attitudes and perceptions of a social problem is helpful for providing a reconciliation of popular thought, scientific evidence, and actual practice.
Much of the research published on FGM seeks to provide information for health care practitioners to care for women and girls who are victims of the practice. Therefore, the researchers aim to influence the key understanding of the practice by stakeholders (Kelly & Hillard, 2005).
Ashimi and Amole (2014) provide a one sided view in the article that is under review in this paper. The authors collect responses, but interpret them based on existing literature and scientific knowledge and practice of health. They negate the reasons and information provided in literature.
This goes contrary to the existing knowledge, instead of mentioning the existing knowledge in their findings. This negation casts doubt in the mind of the reader about the credibility of the researchers’ conclusion, even though the presentation of evidence is academic and reputable.
The reader will feel that the researchers opted to leave out significant evidence, such as the non-recognition of certain cuts as FGM by the community as suspect. The expectation of the research is that it will conclude with the most prevalent perceptions and attitudes of pregnant women concerning the practice.
Instead, it reverts to an interpretation offered by the author about the key observation made, which does no present the reader with answers to the topic question of the research. In this regard, the researchers are biased to their own opinion.
In fact, many researchers on social health issues have problems presenting actual research data because findings go contrary to known and accepted scientific evidence and general practice.
A report by Jaafari (2014) shows a case study where a local community’s reason for supporting the practice are not considered by policy makers and law enforcers who declare FGM illegal and unsafe in their country.
The report shows that the women who actually practice FGM, see it as an important identity for their community and feel that their rights as individuals with free will and a community that has independent cultural values are abused when policy makers and activities force them to reconsider FGM as bad (Jaafari, 2014).
This is also related to the article by Ashimi and Amole (2014), which opts to provide health statistics and accepted practice concerning FGM and then fails to consider the input of respondents when interpreting results and making conclusions.
Reaction and recommendations
Scientific research is essential for formulating responses to social health problems and tackling environmental variables that influence the manifestation of an identified health problem, such as FGM. However, the rigor of scientific evidence collection does not guarantee an accurate interpretation of data.
It is, sometimes, subject to the researchers’ intention of carrying out the research. On the other hand, in social studies, communities and individuals acting as respondents risk having their responses nulled based on various criteria used by the researcher to document findings.
As it is evident in the research by Ashimi and Amole (2014), the varied interpretations of the severity of FGM related practices of the community do not affect the researchers’ notion of FGM is bad and unwarranted in the community.
Unfortunately, much of the policy and practice of health care relies on scientific evidence analyzed and converted to notable interventions for healthcare.
On the other hand, as the World Health Organization clarifies, health problems are interrelated with social and economic situations.
Failing to consider the needs of communities in their social settings makes those who seek to alter behaviors and practices run the risk of having their interventions rejected, even if they have valid benefits for the community.
Therefore, it is important for researchers, activists, and interventionists to have an open attitude towards communal practices, especially those that have been practiced by communities for decades.
Although some health problems might be associated with a practice, such as FGM, there are also positives that scientific research has to present not only in the healthcare perspective, but also in economic and social perspectives.
The practice of FGM among the Maasai in Kenya is a way to govern the behavior of girls and young women and to provide a communal identity (Jaafari, 2014). These reasons for FGM do not have a health care basis, but that does not call for their absolute disposal.
Imposing a different practice to replace FGM as many health care providers would support needs to also consider the implications of the new practice on the non-health care benefits of FGM.
In light of the above reaction about the article and biased norms of intervening on social issues, the recommendation here is that practitioners and researchers need to have an all rounded look into the human issues they deal with. Most social health problems are not straightforward.
The lack of an internal individual or community drive can cause outright rejection to a cause that was, otherwise, well intentioned.
Instead of simply studying communities with an outside mindset that seeks to prove preconceived notions about the community or its practices, its important to also question the preconceived notions about the studied practices and consider the implications of going with the community’s understanding of a given practice.
This should yield more detailed and responsive intervention measures that take care of all stakeholders, social, health, and economic needs.
Ashimi, A. O., & Amole, T. G. (2014). Perception and attitude of pregnant women in a rural community north-west Nigeria to female genital mutilation. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. DOI 10.1007/s00404-014-3478-z
Feldman-Jacobs, C., & Clifton, D. (2014). Female genital mutilation/cutting: data and trends update 2014. Population Reference Bureau. Web.
Jaafari, S. (2014). Why do these women in Kenya support female genital mutilation? PRI. Web.
Kelly, E., & Hillard, P. A. (2005). Female genital mutilation. Current opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 17(5), 490-494.
UNESCO. (2014). UNESCO calls for youth empowerment through education to end female genital mitilation. Web.
WHO. (2014a). Health and development. World Health Organization. Web.
WHO. (2014b). Public health and environmental health topics. World Health Organization. Web.
WHO. (2014c). Social determinants of health: Progress on the implementation of the Rio Political Declaration. World Health Organization. Web.
WHO. (2014d). The determinants of health. World Health Organization. Web.
WHO. (2014e). WHO protection of the human environment. World Health Organization. Web.
WHO. (2014f). World health report: Main messages from World health report 2013. World Health Organization. Web.