Amby Uneze in Owerri
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are jointly working with the wife of the Imo State Governor, Mrs. Nneoma Okorocha to stop the obnoxious act of Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) in the state.
The UN agencies also called on the Imo state government to put in place a comprehensive legislation to criminalise the FGM/C practice and ensure strict enforcement, adding that the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill should be revisited and passed as a law in that regard.
The Chief of Enugu field office (UNICEF) Mr. Charles Nzuki and the Country Representative of UNFPA, Mrs. Beatrice Mutali gave the directive at the launch of a campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting organised by Mrs. Okorocha in Owerri recently.
Nzuki who disclosed that Imo has the fourth highest FGM/C prevalence in the country said a recent baseline survey conducted in 2014 under the UNFPA /UNICEF joint programme on accelerating change for abandonment of FGM further provided prevalence rate of FGM in the LGAs of the state.
He said “UNICEF also urges the state government to further demonstrate political will by ensuring budgetary allocation and release of financial resources through dedicated lines in the relevant ministries”, stating that the launch was a clarion call to community and faith-based leaders to embark on massive awareness programme in their constituencies and congregations to educate the people on the harmful effects of FGM/C.
While pledging the cooperation and support of UNICEF to end FGM in the state, Nzuki urged the state Ministry of Health to promote and to develop the capacity of health facilities and support services for survivors into routine health programmes such as immunisation and ante-natal Clinic.
Addressing stakeholders, Mrs. Okorocha decried the rampant practice of female genital mutilation and the horrors, risks and pains associated with it. She called on the state house of Assembly, the Church, traditional institution, the NCWS, ministries of Health and Education as well as all stakeholders to assist in the crusade against the monster called FGM/cutting.
She inaugurated local government, ward, and community ambassadors as well as traditional rulers and church leaders and charged them to take the message to all nooks and crannies of the state and also appealed to the state house of assembly to pass the VAPP bill which is before the house so that it will be criminal for persons to commit such an offence.
In his remarks, Governor Rochas Okorocha expressed regret at the inability of parents to stop FGM before now, noting that the launch would save the lives of the unborn female babies and violence against women and young females in the society.
Okorocha said “Culture is good but all obnoxious cultures must be stopped because when our tradition encourages unhealthy and barbaric acts, that culture must be stopped. Culture is not static but progressive”.
The governor expressed dismay that Imo is among the states with the highest rate of FGM/cutting saying “we can no longer allow ignorance to overwhelm our people, and I enjoin our traditional rulers to ensure total immunisation of our children against polio.”