By Chidi Nkwopara
THe United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, in collaboration with Imo State office of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, has organized a sensitization workshop in Ikeduru local government area of the state, geared towards exposing the dangers of female genital mutilation. The venue was Ikeduru Local Government Council Headquarters, Iho, and attendance was impressive.
Apart from the participants, carefully selected resource persons were drawn from reputable organizations affiliated to UNICEF, non-governmental support groups, the NOA, Ministry of Health, State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Child Protection Network, Child Rights Advocacy Consultants, Ministry of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Information and Strategy.
Delivering a keynote address, the State NOA Director, Mr. Virus Ekeocha, recalled with glee that the United Nations General assembly had passed a resolution to support government, communities, girls and women concerned, towards the abandonment of female genital mutilation.
According to the Imo NOA boss, the World Health Organization, WHO, defined female genital mutilation as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organ for non-medical reasons. Often, instruments used are crude and unsterilized, thereby endangering the women’s health.
Female genital mutilation
Mr. Ekeocha disclosed that there are about six states in Nigeria that still practice female genital mutilation, including Imo State, stressing that UNICEF and NOA decided to move the sensitization programme to Ikeduru because it was among the few local council areas of the state, with high prevalence rate of the femLe genital mutilation practice.
“Some of the major reasons for the persistence of female genital mutilation in Nigerian communities are rooted in culture and tradition. This has regrettably done more harm than good and this is why we are trying to positively engage the stakeholders in Imo communities with a view to shifting these ugly social norms”, Ekeocha said.
On why UNICEF and NOA decided to adopt this technique, apart from just enforcing the existing laws, Mr. Ekeocha explained that it was a very critical component for the crusade to eradicate female genital mutilation in Nigeria. A resource person from a non-governmental UNICEF assisted body, Mr. Benjamin Mbakwem, identified four times of genital mutilation and the dangers associated with.
“They include severe bleeding, shock, leakage of urine and faeces, complications at childbirth, mental failure. It must also be said that circumcision or female genital mutilation ameliorates promiscuity”, Mbakwem said.
While Mbakwem argued that promiscuity largely stems from orientation rather than the non-tampering with the female genitals, Mrs. Thecular Ejionye, of the State Ministry of Health, was of the opinion that female circumcision constitutes violence against women and urged future generations to stoutly resist the culture.
Speaking also, a Child Rights Advocate and UNICEF Consultant, Mr. Vitalis Ekwem, extensively quoted from the Child Rights Law of 2004, the 1999 Constitution and other relevant documents to lend credence to the crusade against the female genital mutilation. South East Voice recalls that royal fathers, who are the custodians of the people’s culture and tradition, civil society groups, faith based organizations, youth groups, religious leaders, teachers, women groups, town union executives and other stakeholders, were part of the exercise.
One of the highlights of the workshop was a resolution in favour of the abandonment of female genital mutilation, but whether this resolution would be carried out to the letter remains a matter for speculation.