Amby Uneze in Owerri
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) havr asked the Council of Traditional Rulers in Imo State to support development partners in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The Chief of UNICEF Field Office, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh made the appeal in Owerri, the Imo State capital, at a dialogue with traditional leaders facilitated by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) with the support of UNICEF and UNFPA held at the weekend.
With 69% FGM’s prevalence in the state, Conteh expressed concern that Imo State had the highest record of Female Genital Mutilation, which according to World Health Organisation (WHO), involved the removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
At the dialogue, UNICE’s field officer noted that the two specialised agencies of the United Nations would sustain partnership with the federal government and Imo State government to end the FGM in the country.
Conteh noted that the Imo State FGM (Prohibition) Law which stipulated various terms of imprisonments and fine against culprits of the practice as being in consonance with the visions of the body to remedy the ugly trend.
They consequently sought the collaborations of the royal fathers towards the elimination of the FGM in the 55 autonomous communities in the two council areas
He noted that the state government “has a law and policy against FGM. Based on these regimes, UNFPA and UNICEF have come out to support the crusade against FGM mainly through meaningful dialogue and consultations.”
Conteh told the traditional rulers that the UN agencies “have not come to proscribe the cultures and traditions of Imo people. But these cultures and traditions have been proved to be harmful, obnoxious and inhuman.”
He said that the effort had begun “to bear fruits in some communities the field officers of UNICEF, UNFPA and NOA have visited, especially Ngor-Okpala, Ikeduru, Oguta, Owerri West and Ehime Mbano councils.
NOA’s Director in the state, Mr. Vitus Ekeocha commended UNICEF and UNFPA for sustained partnership with NOA, the Ministry of General Development Affairs and the Ministry of Health in the fight against FGM.
He added that a series of dialogues had already taken place in some LGAs in the state to this effect.
According to him, the effort, which started in the Owerri West and Ehime Mbano council areas, would continue till the end of October.
Ekeocha explained that as the custodians of the people’s cultures and traditions, all the traditional rulers in the state “are at a vantage position to end the scourge.”
Speaking on behalf of the monarchs, Chairman of the Owerri West Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Ejimogu Geoffrey denounced the practice of FGM in some communities and pledged their co-operation to stop the practice.
The workshop, which equally featured overview of the FGM and the situation in Imo, the spread of COVID-19 and children protection and the necessity of birth registration also examined the import of child protection, the needs and rights of the child in addition to the role of the community in child protection.
The UNPF-UNICEF Joint Programme also examined the properties and dynamism of culture and factors reinforcing harmful traditional practices, effects of FGM on the health of girls and women as well as in the 34 autonomous communities in the Ehime Mbano Council area.