By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
Umunnawuike community in Atta Ancient Kingdom, Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State, has introduced a fine of N10,000 for anybody caught practising female genital mutilation (girl child circumcision) in the community.
Southeast Voice was at a recently held advocacy dialogue with traditional rulers, organised by Imo State office of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, with the support from United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, Enugu Field Office at Ikeduru Local Government Area of the state, where the Umunnawuike traditional ruler, Eze Joe Anika, revealed this.
Anika said the reason of the N10,000 fine in his community was to discourage his people from engaging in such an act, adding that after the payment of the fine, the one who committed the offence would be taken to the government to face the law.
Also speaking to Southeast Voice, the traditional ruler of Ugiri-Ike Autonomous community, Emmanuel Nwigwe, described FGM as one of the traditional practices that is not only harmful but must be stopped due to what he said were the “evil effects.”
Nwigwe advised that there is need for the enforcement of the extant laws prohibiting the practice of FGM in the various communities.
He was hopeful that with the continued sensitization on the negative impact of the practice,the villagers would begin to see the need to end it.
At the event, the Southeast Voice got the remarks made by the Imo State Director of National Orientation Agency, NOA, Vitus Ekeocha where he disclosed that five states have come tops in the survey conducted on the practise of female genital mutilation.
Some of the states mentioned are Ebonyi, Osun, Ekiti, Oyo, and Imo States, adding that it was for this reason that UNICEF focused more on the aforementioned states.
Ekeocha also said that during the time they engaged some women without their male folks, they were able to extract from them, exactly how bad they feel about the FGM practice. It was discovered that many of the women are currently wallowing in pains.
According to Eze Anika of Umunnawuike ll of Atta Ancient Kingdom,”I am so happy that Imo State used to be rated high in the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, but it is now reducing as people are getting aware especially in my community. We have already made a declaration that we don’t want it anymore.
“We have set up some committees to monitor some maternity homes, hospitals and we have also advised heads of institutions to monitor whenever a child comes back from ante-natal if such a thing has been done.
“Our own is ten thousand naira and you will pay before we take you to the government. In my place, we don’t have this traditional birth attendants anymore because they are the number one people that engage in these practice. We know that some people could hide and engage in this practice. That is why we set up this committee.”
Also, the traditional ruler of Ugiri-Ike Autonomous community, Nwigwe was of the view that “We are working in the right direction because the evil effects are well known and if we stop it, we will benefit from it. This is one of those traditional practices that must be stopped.
“Our responsibility as traditional rulers is to discourage such a thing to an extent that you can also legislate to an extent that it is no longer part of the tradition. If we agree as a group to stop it, what we need to do is to enforce it and it will be the end to that practice.”
On some of the reasons for which they embarked on the campaign against FGM, Ekeocha, Director of the Imo State office of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, said: “Ebonyi, Osun, Ekiti, Oyo and Imo are the local communities the UNICEF is working on and the prevalent rate of FGM in these five states is higher than any other state in the federation.
“From all information gathered and from all that the women confessed, there is need to abandon this FGM practice. It was when were doing community dialogue that we started hearing the practical experiences.
“You know in those days, because of our culture and tradition, women were not speaking out no matter how painful it might have been. You couldn’t say no to your husband and even your fellow women will come and ask you if you are a woman. But things are different now as a woman can tell her husband no, you can’t touch me.
For instance, when a woman gives birth through caesarean section, there is a way other women will be looking at her.
“Because of this cultural stigmatization, everybody decided to keep quiet but when you engage them one after the other, especially when they are not with their male folks, you will hear alot and you know that they have really suffered. So, there is need to abandon this practice.”