By Amby Uneze
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the state and federal governments have reassured the country of their commitment and support to promote and protect the rights of the girl child from all forms of violence and discrimination so as to give them a sense of belonging and maintain their beauty as created by God.
This submission was made by the UNICEF Chief of field office, Enugu, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh, while presenting an address at a three-day sensitization conference with civil society organizations, Young Peoples Network, and Orientation Advocacy Group, organized by the Imo State Ministry of Gender and Vulnerable Groups Affairs with support from UNICEF held in Owerri, the capital of Imo State.
Conteh stressed that UNICEF had initiated a number of innovative measures towards the actualization of individual needs, corporate bodies and institutions that are conscientiously committed to the protection and elevation of the rights of children and women across the country.
Conteh, who was represented by the UNICEF consultant for Imo and Ebonyi States, Benjamin Mbakwem, commended the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in the state for the remarkable role to end female genital mutilation (FGM).
Declaring the workshop open, the Commissioner for Gender and Vulnerable Groups Affairs, Mrs Nkechi Ugwu, explained that the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS 2018) has indicated that the prevalent rate of FGM in the state rose from 32.3 per cent to 63 per cent in 2018 and expressed astonishment in this regard.
The commissioner submitted that it had become absolutely necessary for CSOs and the young people’s network to play fundamental roles in providing the government with credible, reliable and independent information about the status of the FGM elimination campaign in the state.
Mrs Ugwu, who stressed the need to strengthen the capacity of CSO and young people’s network in the campaign against FGM, stated that the United Nation’s Joint Programme on FGM in phases 1 and 2 partnered with the state government and CSOs to respond to issues associated with FGM.
According to the commissioner, in phase III, the joint programme would further strengthen the relationship by building capacity in the participation of consultative engagement with civil society organizations.
The commissioner, who was represented by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Mrs. Obiageri Amadi-Obi, paid special attention to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic in the country, and charged participants to provide integrated messages on positive ways to end violence against children and to increase the engagement of COS and young people’s network with policy makers for the elimination of FGM in the state.
Also speaking, the state Director of the NOA, Vitus Ekeocha, said that the agency had commenced rigorous sensitization and awareness campaign in the focal communities in the state against FGM.
This, he said, is in collaboration with the relevant institutions such as the Ministries of Health and Gender and Vulnerable Group Affairs with tremendous success already record through consensus youth building, women and traditional rulers on how to eliminate FGM from their cultural practices.
In her contribution, the Director of Women Affairs of the state Ministry of Gender Affairs, Mrs. Blessing Azubuike, revealed that a total of 35 cases were reported to the state committee on violence against women and children between the months of April and August this year.
She described rape as one of the different forms of violence against women, adding that the ministry had commenced a comprehensive documentation of cases of violence against women, which according to her, is on the increase.
The workshop, which featured lectures on violence against children, women, girls, their forms, perpetrators, where they occur, causes and risk factors also examined the import of cultures and traditions, their dynamism, values, benefits and dangers as well as factors reinforcing harmful traditional practices across the state.