MEDIA4: Discouraging female genital mutilation
resolved Jul 10

As part of Charity Entrepreneurship's 2023 Top Ideas contest, will we select "Discouraging female genital mutilation" as a top Mass Media intervention?

Idea overview

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is still highly prevalent in LMICs, especially in Saharan and northern sub-Saharan Africa. It involves partially or fully cutting a girl's external genitalia, which can cause (among other issues) serious bleeding, infection, infertility, and even death. This organization would produce edutainment shows aimed to stimulate reflection and debate around this topic, with the aim of changing people’s attitudes, perceived norms, and ultimately their decision on whether or not to do FGM.

Mass media interventions

By ‘mass media’ intervention we refer to social and behavior change communication campaigns delivered through mass media, aiming to improve human well-being. We intend to select 2-4 ideas out of the 10 presented to recommend to entrepreneurs who enter our incubation program. This market resolves YES if this idea is chosen; NO otherwise.

About the contest

In partnership with Charity Entrepreneurship, Manifold is sponsoring a $2000 forecasting tournament to inform which ideas end up selected

  • You can win part of a $1000 prize pool as a forecaster, for best predicting which interventions we choose.

  • You can win one of ten $100 prizes for posting an informative comment on Manifold that most influences our decision.

For contest details and all markets, see the group CE 2023 Top Ideas.

Get Ṁ200 play money

🏅 Top traders

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predicted NO

Hedge your bets here:

bought Ṁ10 of NO

First of all, this cause doesn't seem particularly neglected, there are existing organizations working towards discouraging this practice. Secondly, creating debate seems less effective than enacting laws.

predicted NO

This is really difficult to advocate for, given how people are generally resistant to changing their current practices, resulting in a high degree of backlash. Ultimately, I see this as very similar to MEDIA2 in its potential failings, but I expect that it will be relevant to fewer people that see the mass media.

bought Ṁ10 of NO

You cannot "discourage" religious/cultural traditions very effectively, but you sure as hell can outlaw them. This market should be about pursuing worldwide legal restrictions or outright bans.

bought Ṁ15 of NO

This seems a lot like 2, although I think it’s slightly more conceivable that there’s an information barrier here since it seems that some people don’t understand the health risks of it. However it also seems that a) there are a lot of people working on it and b) it’s been banned in a lot of places already, even if those aren’t always enforced

  • this would be an interesting one to fund if only to figure out why the practice happens. every source I could find was like "it's because rural people are dumb and backwards and hate women"

  • that said, I would hate to be the one dreaming up the plot of these shows

predicted NO

FGM is big enough there'll be a some good writing on why it happens

2 minutes of google scholar (fgm + ethnography, ethnography is one of the magic technical terms for this kind of thing) yields, interesting part starts page 8

FGM/C was so much a part of the local culture and the norm, some
participants struggled to grasp why it was garnering negative international
attention. For them, not upholding the tradition was an alien concept,
especially since they assumed all women around the world practiced it: “I think
too much attention is paid to the subject. Half of the women in the world are

Circumcision is a traditional rite for all females who want to be
recognized, because it is the cultural belief that an uncircumcised woman
cannot partake in the ceremony that involves appeasing the gods of the
land. She will not be welcomed among her fellow women and her child
will be considered an outcast. The fear of being excommunicated or
losing my baby and the gift they give during the ceremony made me to
go for circumcision (Dotimi, 2017

This process was also seen as a joyous event and “ the village, people will
be looking and listening for that time when they are called to witness the
circumcision” (Anuforo et al., 2004). The community members came together
to celebrate the girl's ascent into womanhood:
“The woman who was just circumcised will be surrounded by these
women wrapped in colorful wrappers. They will dance and eat for the
entire seven days. The women will cook the food. The girl who is being
circumcised is not allowed to do anything; rather, she remains in the
company of the unmarried girls in that village but she is fed special food.”
(Anuforo et al., 20

Girls and women who were not circumcised were
mocked about their personal hygiene: “Some say that the girl who is not
circumcised has a bad odour because she is not clean down there.”

etc etc etcq (NOTE: this is just from the first page, not claiming it's representative of the whole contents, haven't read them)

I don't think 'hating women' is historically causal in an overrepresentation of FGM-type things happening to women vs men, plenty of historical cultural practices harm men quite a bit

predicted YES

@jacksonpolack thanks for the tip re: ethnography, that's helpful. & agreed on the last point, I don't think it's causal at all since it seems that women are just as invested as men in carrying out the practice – I was just getting a lot of public-health sources saying things like "it's because people are uneducated and misogynistic" which seems sus.

would be curious if it's culturally adaptive in some way – there are the literal reasons practitioners give, and then there are presumably reasons on the cultural level it's persisted so long. the interesting question is whether those reasons are now outdated or not, or whether it actually just is a maladaptive practice that survived a long time for... reasons?

predicted YES

i.e., women often report getting circumcised for the purpose of social cohesion or avoiding becoming outcasts, but what are the influences that might cause a culture to shun women who haven't undergone this practice?

bought Ṁ300 of NO

@Lily I'm buying NO on this because even though it is a terrible thing, like circumcision, it continues because of "norms" independent of the research.

Most people know circumcision is purely cosmetic (and detrimental) yet it still occurs. The same is true here, they all pretty well know that it is a brutal thing to do - it happens anyway. I fail to see how a mass media campaign would sufficiently address that. It would just signal to people who already know, something they already know. Maybe it could encourage social pressure of some kind but I really don't see this (media) format having a significant positive impact relative to some of the other suggestions.

Circumcision guidelines would be useful to disseminate as well, African countries circumcise years late:
which leads to more complications

This is both a massive cause area, and the FGM is bad, but a lot of anti-fgm activism driven not by 'utilitarian welfare impact' but a specific distaste for things that are sexist, which means that it'll have more attention than other causes

GPT-4 ranked this #6 to be selected of the 10:

"FGM is a serious problem with significant health and human rights implications, but its cultural roots might make it a more challenging issue to address than some others listed here"