Lucia Corno, Cattolica University

"Norm Replacement and Information. A Field Experiment on ending Female Genital Cutting"


Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is an extremely harmful tradition that persists in many regions worldwide, imposing severe adverse effects on women's health and human capital accumulation. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of two interventions designed to reduce the incidence of FGC among adolescent girls in Sierra Leone. In this setting, FGC is part of a traditional initiation ceremony called Bondo, which marks a girl's transition into womanhood. We randomly assigned 150 villages to three experimental arms: (i) a control group; (ii) an information arm, where we held community-wide discussions on the differences in outcomes between cut and uncut girls (e.g., in terms of health); and (iii) a norm-replacement arm, aimed at substituting the traditional ritual with an alternative that does not involve cutting Bondo without cutting. We measure girls' FGC status both through mothers' reports and through direct observation by medical personnel during health checks. Three years after the intervention, both treatments resulted in a 24%-23% decrease in the joint probability that girls were not cut. Our results underline the importance of designing culturally sensitive policies when trying to change harmful traditions.

(Joint with E. La Ferrara)

Contact person: Neda Trifkovic