By Gabriel Olawale
HACEY Health Initiative in partnership with the Ekiti State Government held a round table meeting with the aim of discussing ways to put an end to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the state.
This meeting is in line with the objective of the Stop Cut project which aimed at reducing the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting in Nigeria by improving the enforcement of protective laws and increasing public knowledge and positive behavioral change among communities and stakeholders.
The project is funded by The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) and is being implemented in Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states, which have the highest prevalence of FGM in Southwest Nigeria.
The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated exclusively to addressing all forms of violence against women and girls at local and national levels. To date, the UN Trust Fund has supported 572 organizations in 140 countries and territories.
The meeting which had over 30 people in attendance was held on Monday, March 16 in Ado Ekiti. Some of the participants included the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Dr Mrs Mojisola Yaya-Kolade; the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health , Dr Mrs Folake Olowojobi; the Permanent Secretary, Health Management Board , Dr Williams Afolabi amongst other people.
In a bid to aid the Stop-Cut Project, the stakeholders shared some of their experiences regarding issues relating to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and how they can contribute to achieving the objectives of the project.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) which was represented by Mrs Aderonke Olaimuyi of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID,) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corp (NSCDC), represented by Folukemi Jacobs both emphasized the need to create awareness about the negative impact of FGM in the rural areas of the state. They explained that despite the fact there has been no report of FGM so far, the bodies are always ready to persecute offenders once they are reported.
Dr Mrs Folake Olowojobi requested that the Ministry of Justice should sensitize the police force on the provision of the law so that prosecution can be done according to the law. She also said the state would emulate the processes put in place in Osun State as it concerns reporting of FGM to designated authorities.
The State Secretary of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Ms Blessing Ajileye said that the body is yet to receive complaints regarding FGM. She added that it was because people do not see it as a problem. Other stakeholders present also emphasized the need to sensitize rural dwellers about the negative impact of FGM, especially in the local dialect to aid their understanding of what FGM means and the reason it should be stopped.
The Director of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs Tayo Olatilu said, “The practice of FGM in Ekiti State is unique because it is practiced on infants from 8 days to 2 months at maximum and as such people do not report themselves as it is a family issue not exposed to others. The ministry will intensify effort on sensitization and also establish FGM champions at the grassroots level.” She added that circumcisers will be empowered in order to ensure that they quit the practice of mutilation and they will be monitored so that they do not go back to the work.
Also, organizations such as, Nigeria Association of Nurses and Midwives (NANM), represented by Mr Comarade Fatomulugi; Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA), represented by Pharm. Olabisi Arogundade; Hospital Management Board (HMB), represented by Dr Williams Afolabi; explained that the registrars and relevant members of staff will be informed in order to curb the evil act. It was also said that anyone found disregarding the laws will be made to face legal consequences.
The Ministry of Education which was represented by Mrs. Alokan, the Director on gender matters also noted that though there has been no report from schools so far, the Ministry would work with HACEY to introduce clubs in schools, incorporate FGM into curriculum at both primary and secondary school level.”
Other stakeholders such as; Nigeria Association of Women Journalist (NAWOJ), represented by Ms Bimbo Yusuf; National Orientation Agency (NOA), represented by Mrs oluwatoyosi funmilayo Eleyinmi and National Human Right Commission (NHRC), represented by Mrs Ayomide A. Adeshina each talked about the sensitization of community dwellers in order to bridge the information gap that part of the society. It was also said that the media will be used to disseminate information about FGM in order to create more awareness in the state.
Thereafter, a brief visitation was paid to the House of Assembly to inform them about the Stop Cut project and also get their buy-in. The project was welcomed with open hands and the House promised to support the project by reviewing the existing policy and promoting the laws of the state.