Benjamin Nworie in Abakaliki
Wife of Ebonyi State Governor, Mrs. Rachel Umahi, has advocated for rapid house to house sensitisation against female genital mutilation (FGM) in the 13 local government areas of the state.
She made the declaration during a one-day symposium commemorating the 2017 zero FGM day sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Enugu under the UNICEF/UNFPA programme with funding from Department for International Development (DFID).
The governor’s wife noted that the FGM bill was on the state governor’s desk waiting to be signed into law, stressing that such practice would receive the full weight of the law.
Harping on the theme ‘Sustainable Policies and Responsive Services: Twin-Pillars for FGM Eradication in Ebonyi State’, the UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Charles Nzuki noted the symposium signifies a shining example of leaders who are committed to a cause to improve quality of life for vulnerable women who undergo excruciating pains of the practice.
He expressed worry that millions of women and girls have continued to undergo the harmful practice of FGM which causes high risk for maternal mortality, Vesico Vaginal Fistula, noting that schools remain a veritable platform to educate and facilitate reorientation of families, duty bearers and communities about the harmful effect of the practice.
He further stressed that health facilities should provide great opportunities to convert the routine contact and clinic attendance including ante/post-natal and immunisation clinics to disseminate lifesaving messages to prevent the practice
Speak Up against FGM, Ambode Tells Lagosians
Wife of the Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, has called on mothers, women groups and high-powered government organisations, to step up advocacy towards total eradication of female genital mutilation (FGM).
She made the call in Alausa, Ikeja, while interacting with journalists on the occasion of the 2017 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
Bolanle, who noted that FGM constituted an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls, violating their rights to health, security and physical integrity, wondered why women should continue to suffer such level of dehumanisation, just to get social acceptance or avoid social stigma.
She said, “It is surprising that 45 out of every 100 adult women living in Lagos State have undergone FGM at one time or another as reported in the National Demographic Health Survey 2013. This is largely due to migration from those states where the prevalence in much higher.”
Speaking further, she disclosed that FGM was mostly carried out on young girls, sometimes between infancy and age 15, as this causes much bleeding and health issues which include but not limited to cysts, infections, infertility, as well as complications and even death in some cases.
The First Lady noted further that it was erroneous and misleading to tie the gruesome procedure to family honour, hygiene, fertility, protection of virginity and prevention of promiscuity.
She called for massive public awareness campaigns and concrete actions against the practice.
She contended that only when mothers began to raise their voices against the act and governments initiated strong legislations, “could we begin to race toward total eradication of the wicked practice in Africa and the world come 2030.”
UNICEF Calls for Collective Action to End Female Genital Mutilation
As Nigeria joined the world to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) earlier in the week, UNICEF has called on governments at all levels, civil society organisations, and traditional and religious leaders to collaborate in ending the practice in the country.
Speaking to mark the day, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mohamed Fall, stressed that “every study and every bit of evidence we have shows there is absolutely no benefit to mutilate or to cut any girl or woman for non-medical reasons. It is a practice that can cause severe physical and psychological harm.”
Five states in Nigeria have rates of FGM that are more than 60 per cent, with Osun and Ebonyi highest at 77 and 74 per cent respectively, according to the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey. The other states are Ekiti, 72 per cent; Imo, 68 per cent; and Oyo, 66 per cent.
FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other cutting of or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
In February last year, Wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari launched a national campaign to end FGM, calling on all parties to work together to halt the harmful practice. Her call underlines the need for collective action at every level.
UNICEF is working with federal and state governments, especially in the Southern states where the practice is most prevalent, training partners, creating awareness at all levels and working with communities to convince practitioners and community members to promote an end to the practice.
According to Fall, support is growing for the national campaign to end FGM. “With the support of the Wives of the State Governors, Imo and Oyo State Houses of Assembly are currently working on draft bills that will prohibit the practice of FGM and any custom or tradition promoting it. When the bills are passed, Imo and Oyo will join the other most affected southern states – Osun, Ebonyi and Ekiti – that already have laws against the practice in place.
“We applaud the progress that has been made in Nigeria, but there is still a long way to go.Even though this practice has persisted for over a thousand years, our evidence tells us that with collective action, it can end in one generation,” added Fall.