By Amby Uneze in Owerri
Imo State communities and stakeholders have been urged to work tenaciously and assiduously towards the total elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and all forms of violence against the girl child.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Chief of Field Office, Enugu, Dr. Ibrahim Conte made the remarks yesterday while presenting an address at the public declaration of abolition of FGM by the 52 autonomous communities in the two local government areas of Owerri West and Ehime Mbano LGAs of Imo state, led by the chairman of the council of traditional rulers, Eze Geoffrey Ejimogu, and Eze Emmanuel Ibechi respectively.
According to him, since nobody has been able to prove the importance of FGM in society, the time has come for the people to work in tandem with UNICEF, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other relevant government agencies so as to put an end to this obnoxious practice that inhibits the proper development of the girl child.
Dr. Conteh who was represented by the UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Victor Atuchukwu, encouraged the various communities to be on the same page with appropriate authorities and work towards the sustainability of the milestone recorded at the various engagements.
He explained that UNICEF will continue to forge ahead towards battling this ugly menace and take the message to the grassroots with a view to setting up surveillance team that would monitor and report prospective offenders to the law enforcement agency for prosecution and appropriate sanctions.
“UNICEF is poised more than ever to work in close collaboration with the surveillance team, community leaders and other relevant agencies so as to fish out individuals and groups that will fall short of the laws eliminating the practice of FGM in the various communities.
He commended the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and individuals who have continued to identify with the crusade against FGM in the state.
Dr. Conteh decried the disastrous consequences of FGM to the girl child and assured that they will continue to intensify measures to tackle the menace in the state.
Speaking, the Coordinator of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in the state, Uka Ukachi, disclosed that the Commission would soon come up with fresh measures to tackle the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in some communities in the state along with other right abuses/violation of the girl child.
According to her, the Commission has already established offices across the 36 states of the federation and FCT to strengthen the onslaught against all forms of human right abuses against the girl child including FGM which she said violates the rights to privacy, right to life, survival, sexual reproduction and development of the girl child.
This is even as the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has vowed to henceforth arrest and prosecute parents and guardians found guilty of FGM.
As an organization set up to monitor and to remedy established cases of human rights abuses, particularly that of the girl child, Ukachi said that NHRC was now working in collaboration with the police and other security agencies to stem the ugly practice.
In his remarks, the state Director of NOA, Vitus Ekeocha, revealed that all the efforts by UNICEF and NOA toward bringing the communities together for declaration has yielded positive results.
According to him, for the communities to willingly decide to abolish any tradition or culture, such communities must have consistently participated in their dialogue sessions and realized the negative effects of this obnoxious practice.
Ekeocha explained that what was being witnessed today was the outcome of various engagements, dialogue and advocacy meetings with critical segments on the immediate and long term negative health and psycho-social consequences of FGM on the health of girls and women in the 21 autonomous communities by various partners and civil society organizations.
In their public declaration agreement, the royal fathers of Owerri West autonomous communities represented by HRH Eze Geoffrey Ejiogu and HRH Eze Ethelbert Ekwelibe unanimously consented and agreed to publicly declare their intention to eliminate the obnoxious practice in their various communities.
“We the royal fathers of the 21 autonomous communities in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo state and the entire people of Owerri West Local Government Area comprising of more than 250 villages having been sensitized about the harmful effects of FGM and having deliberated during the several community dialogue have recognized the immediate and long term negative health, physical and psycho-social consequences of FGM.
His counterpart, Eze Ibechi on behalf of other traditional rulers in the council area pronounced that hence forth, anybody caught in the practice of FGM would be treated as criminal offence against the state.
“We also recognized the health implication of this practice to our daughters, wives and sisters subjected to this practice. Based on the above we have publicly declared to put an end to this practice”, he said.