The REPLACE Approach has been developed by the project with the goal of ending FGM in the EU. It is a bottom-up approach that empowers communities and puts them at the centre of social norm transformation using behavioural change theory. It is aimed at those within FGM affected communities or those working with these communities, whose goal is to end FGM in the EU. It is also relevant to policy makers who aim to end FGM; since the success of the REPLACE Approach is enhanced by political support.
The REPLACE team implemented the REPLACE Approach in five EU countries with a range of migrant African communities over three years, and learnt a lot about the challenges of engaging on this issue and of implementing the REPLACE Approach. Although it was known at the outset how important it is to engage with affected communities in a genuine and honest way, the amount of time and resources needed to do this cannot be underestimated. REPLACE partners with greater experience of engaging with FGM affected communities in the UK and the Netherlands (FORWARD and FSAN) were in a much stronger position to move quickly on engagement because of their long histories of working in the field. It was more challenging for the Southern European partners (APF, CESIE and GES) who were working with newer migrant communities and who as organisations had only recently begun working with them on the issue of FGM.
- The website : www.replacefgm2.eu
- Conferences : international conferences such as the Girl Summit
- Publications in newspapers in the United Kingdom
The REPLACE Toolkit (and accompanying REPLACE Community Handbook) provides a new framework for working to end FGM in the EU. The Toolkit demonstrates why traditional approaches typically used to campaign and intervene to end FGM may not be resulting in an end to the practice and argues for a new approach, the REPLACE Approach. The REPLACE Approach combines the latest research into behaviour change with Community-based Participatory Action Research and regular evaluation. The result is a culturally sensitive, community empowering framework designed to achieve social norm transformation, and bring an end to FGM in the EU.
The three pillars of the REPLACE Approach are:
1. Behavioural Change
REPLACE recognises that the practice of FGM occurs within a wider socio-cultural context and the behaviour and decisions of others are critical in relation to the outcome of whether or not FGM is carried out. REPLACE also recognises that some individuals are in less powerful or influential positions than others, and therefore are unable to implement certain behaviours that will lead to the abandonment of FGM. REPLACE has therefore adopted relevant elements from both individually focused behaviour change theories and the theories that concentrate on the role of society to tackle the social norm of FGM.
2. Engaging and working with communities
When implementing activities and interventions based on behaviour change theories it is very important to understand the belief systems and the social norm supporting the behaviour and identify any barriers to change. This is particularly important when designing interventions to end FGM, as this is a complex issue and is one that involves not just individuals and families but the affected community as a whole. In addition every community is different, so what might be the case for one community might not be the same for other communities. ‘One size does not fit all’. Thus engaging with communities and listening to community members and leaders is important in order to ensure the intervention is appropriate, culturally acceptable and effective. The REPLACE Approach uses Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) to engage with communities and collect information concerning individual and community practices and beliefs regarding FGM and the perceived barriers to ending FGM.
Evaluation underpins the REPLACE Approach and informs each element of the Approach. It is an iterative and empowering process allowing communities and organisations working with communities to end FGM to target, adapt, implement and assess the impact of activities and interventions to ensure effective use of limited resources for maximum impact. In addition it allows interventionists to learn what works and what needs improving or changing (The Health Foundation, 2015). The REPLACE Approach advocates the use of evaluation approaches that can be easily adopted and employed by communities and organisations working with limited budgets, so that they can assess the effectiveness of their work and decide how best to make use of limited funds and resources.
The REPLACE Cyclic Framework for Social Norm Transformation comprises five elements that represent the flow of motivation and behaviour change within a community, stressing the important role played by community leaders, influential people and peer group champions in achieving social norm transformation.