By Amby Uneze
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has taken the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other forms of abuses against the girl-child to secondary schools in Imo State.
The move is in its bid to eradicate the obnoxious practice across the state, known for the prevalence of female genital mutilation.
Addressing students at the 2020 commemoration of global observance of the International Day of the Girl Child, held at Mercy Girls High School, Ehime, in Ehime Mbano Council Area, the UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Enugu, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh stressed that the organisation would remain resolute and committed towards the protection and propagation of the rights and privileges of children and work with relevant federal government agencies to ensure accountability, ownership and sustainability.
According to him, as one of the UN agencies saddled with the responsibility of managing the affairs of children, UNICEF is poised to eliminate all obstacles impeding the development, socialisation and emancipation of the girl-child from all forms of discrimination.
Conteh challenged girls to rise to the occasion and aim for the top so as to be reckoned with in the scheme of things globally.
“Many countries today have women as presidents and Rwanda has emerged as the country with the highest number of female lawmakers. You can do better if you put your mind to work and work towards being independent.”
He highlighted the objectives of the ceremony which has the theme ‘Our Voice, Our Equal Future’ to include: enhancing participants’ knowledge on the current efforts to end the practice of FGM in Imo and Ebonyi States; provision of a platform for the participants to discuss the theme of the year and to provide information of service providers to victims of FGM and where those at risk could seek assistance in Ebonyi with the support of the school.
Conteh, who was represented by the UNICEF’s Desk Officer in the State Ministry of Gender and Vulnerable Group Affairs, Austin Okoro, called on parents and guardians to always provide equal opportunities for their children to enable them to realise their full potential as leaders of tomorrow.
He enjoined the girl-child to always report cases of female genital mutilation to school authorities for onward transmission to the relevant authorities.
“Our visit here is to let you know that you can report the practice anywhere you see it happening. If your parents, teachers hear your voices, violence against you will stop. UNICEF is here to help to ensure that female genital mutilation is eliminated in Ehime Mbano. We’ve been able to secure public declaration against FGM and we’ve been able to train people in various LGAs to appreciate the harmful nature of this practice.”
A health expert from the state Ministry of Health, Mrs. Stella Ukaegbu stated that among1 several others, pressing the female genitals with the thumbs is the most prevalent in Ehime Mbano, saying that the reason given that the practice helps to prevent promiscuity is not true.
Ukaegbu stated that the practice had been a major cause of prolonged labour among women among other things.
She maintained that preventing FGM would require committed enforcement and prosecution workforce that would implement the provisions of the protective law and policies of the state.
An official of the National Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Ukachi Ukah, who spoke on violence against persons, disclosed that 50 per cent of children experience physical, sexual and emotional violence from caregivers and relatives.