Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication

First Advisor

Eric Abbott

Second Advisor

Daniela V. Dimitrova

Third Advisor

Robert Mazur


This thesis examined female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa and the global movement to eliminate the practice. Despite three decades of concerted efforts, behavior change of FGM-practicing population has been small. This thesis outlined international actions and how they influenced activities at the national and the local level.;A textual analysis of secondary sources revealed that the international community, guided by concerned UN organizations and large donor groups, define FGM as a violation of human rights and set a uniform goal to completely eliminate all forms of FGM. By coordinating actions not only at the international but also at the local level, any alternative being raised by cultural relativists is strictly ruled out.;However, an in-depth analysis of strategies implemented at the local level found that less attention has been focused on the effectiveness of messages that are being introduced to FGM-practicing communities. In particular, the case studies found that introducing the concept of human rights, in most cases, failed to succeed. The human rights argument did not correspond to the local reasons for practicing FGM. The case studies showed that the abstractness of the concept needs to be tailored to the realities and experiences of the FGM-practicing communities. A large majority of communication strategies and theories followed the traditions of the dominant paradigm. However, upon implementation, many lacked community-driven behavior change. Implementation of theories and strategies that take a participatory approach are suggested in order to evoke community-based and community-led solutions to FGM. Finally, this thesis suggests a decentralized model of behavior communication that permits greater flexibility of approaches to anti-FGM communication.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Kyung Sun Lee



Proquest ID


OCLC Number




File Format


File Size

139 pages