By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI- THE age-long practice of Female Genital Mutilation, FGM and Cutting which had over the years affected the pride of womanhood negatively, is gradually becoming a thing of the past following the enlightenment campaigns against the ugly practice by some communities in Ebonyi State.
These communities which included Amangbala, Mkpoghoro, Ibii of Afikpo North Local Government Area of the state, weekend, did not only condemn the practice but also agreed to ensure that the practice of FGM/C was totally eradicated among members of the community and indeed, the state as a whole.
To ensure the participation of all the community members in the exercise, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in conjunction with the Office of the Wife of the Ebonyi State Governor, organised a sensitisation awareness rally geared towards ending the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Addressing participants at the one-day meeting held at Amangbala, Mkpoghoro and Ibii communities in Afikpo North Local Government Area, Mrs Rachel Umahi represented by her Chief Press Secretary, Donatus Owoh, enjoined stakeholders/leaders of thought to intensify efforts to end the menace of FGM/C.
Mrs Umahi stated that the Ebonyi State House of Assembly has passed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill into law, assuring that it would soon be assented to by Governor David Umahi.
“When the law is assented to, offenders would pay a fine of N150,000 or five years imprisonment, all the institutions from the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature were involved in the making of the law.”
The wife of the governor urged the people of Afikpo community to make an open declaration banning the practice of FGM/C insisting that the ugly practice has no benefit to humanity.
“The dangers of female genital mutilation include death, bleeding, obstructed labour, and Vesico Vagina Fistula (VVF). We want to see a positive change at the end of this meeting, communities should partner to end the scourge. On 5th July 2015, my office through my pet project, Family Succour and Upliftment Programme, flagged off the campaign against the practice of female genital mutilation.”
Mrs Umahi reiterated that the advocacy campaign embarked upon by her office has resulted to public declaration by leaders of various clans in the state notably, Izzi, Abakaliki and Ohaozara communities against the practice of female genital mutilation and other harmful traditional practices.
“Today, we have carried advocacy to schools, judiciary, lawmakers and traditional rulers, these institutions have made commitments to eliminate FGM.”
In her speech at the occasion, a representative of the United Nations Population Fund, Mrs Katharine Connolly, assured that the organisation would partner with the office of the wife of the Ebonyi State Governor to eliminate the scourge of FGM.
Mrs Connolly urged stakeholders/traditional rulers in the community to denounce the practice of female genital mutilation in its entirety.
“All hands must be on deck, all of us will make a change in this obnoxious practice, all harmful practices against women must be stopped.”
Earlier in a lecture titled Dangers of Female Genital Mutilation, a paediatrician with the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, Dr Michael Nweze described the practice of FGM/C as human rights violation.
He denounced certain harmful practices such as women/wives’ inheritance and female genital mutilation, emphasizing that all hands must be on deck to end the practice.
“In 2011, the prevalent rate of FGM in Ebonyi State was 62 per cent, but with the advocacy, it reduced to 43.2 per cent in 2017.”
Two of the participants including the traditional Prime Minister of Ohaisu community in Amangbala, Mr Gabriel Obiahu and a woman leader, Mrs Chinyere Ukie, commended both the UNFPA and the wife of the Ebonyi State Governor for the initiative, assuring that such obnoxious practice would be outlawed in the community.
Participants at the sensitization campaign included traditional rulers, stakeholders, women groups, students, pupils of Central School Amangbala, market women among others.