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The impact of health education on attitudes of parents and religious leaders towards female genital mutilation
  1. Deldar Morad Abdulah1,
  2. Angela Dawson2,
  3. Bewar Abdulaziz Sedo3
  1. 1 Adult Nursing Departemnt, College of Nursing, University of Duhok, Duhok City, Duhok, Iraq
  2. 2 The Australian Centre for Public and Population Health Research, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 Department of Political Science, College of Humanities, University of Duhok, Duhok City, Iraq
  1. Correspondence to Mr Deldar Morad Abdulah, College of Nursing, University of Duhok, Duhok City, Duhok, Iraq; deldarmorad{at}


Background Previous studies conducted in Iraqi Kurdistan have reported that parent’s decisions to circumcise their daughters are based on religious or cultural beliefs. Despite the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), the effectiveness of educational strategies to change attitudes towards FGM has not been examined in this region. The present investigation examined the effectiveness of a short-term educational intervention to change the attitudes of parents and religious leaders towards FGM.

Methods 192 Mullahs (religious leaders), 212 Mokhtars (traditional leaders) and 523 parents in rural areas in Iraqi Kurdistan were invited to participate in a pre- and post-test community-based interventional study in 2017. The Health Belief Model informed the intervention, and participants’ attitudes were compared across two stages of the study.

Results The attitudes of Mullahs, Mokhtars and parents substantially changed from a position of supporting female circumcision to expressing a wish to abandon the practice and not cut their future daughters (OR 1.57, 95% CI 1.02 to 2.42; OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.3 to 3.04 and OR 0.13, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.18, respectively).

Conclusions The present study suggests that brief educational interventions can be an effective strategy for changing the attitudes of parents and public leaders towards FGM. Health education is a useful strategy for changing attitudes. However, such interventions must be delivered alongside other strategies to ensure a multifaceted approach to addressing complex social dynamics. A comprehensive public health approach is, therefore, necessary that includes legal measures, community-based action and an appropriate health system approach.

  • female genital mutilation
  • education and training
  • health education
  • parents’ support
  • leaders’ support

Statistics from


  • Contributors DMA and BAS participated in concept, review, data collection, design and data analysis. The statistical extractions were performed by DMA only. AD contributed to review, revision and analysis, and discussion of the study results.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.

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