New Telegraph

February 29, 2024

Nigeria To Work 10 Times Faster To End FGM By 2030 – UNICEF

With just six years to the 2030 target date to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria, UNICEF has denounced the slow progress being recorded in its eradication.

The Chief of UNICEF, Lagos Office, Celine Lafoucriere who made the observation has therefore called for collective responsibility in working towards the eradication of FGM, saying progress needs to be at least 10 times faster than what is obtained at the moment to achieve the goal of eliminating FGM by 2030.

The position of UNICEF came as Nigeria joined the rest of the world community to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which was commemorated on Tuesday, February 6 to stand in solidarity with survivors and global activists in calling for an end to female genital mutilation and cutting.

FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is most often carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.

Lafoucriere said girls today are one-third less likely to be subjected to FGM compared to three decades ago, but noted that progress in that space was too slow.

However, she recommended that progress needs to be at least 10 times faster than what is obtained at the moment so as to meet the set target.

The theme of this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is ‘Her Voice, Her Future’.

The prevalence of FGM is highest in the southeast, with 35 per cent of 0 to 14-year-old girls being affected, followed by the southwest, with 30 per cent of girls being affected by FGM.

Highlighting the areas where FGM practice is common, the chief of UNICEF in the Lagos Office said, “If we zoom into specific states in the region, it is worth noting that Ekiti state still accounts for nearly 24 per cent of girls affected by FGM, and Oyo state still accounts for 21 per cent. Very crucially, this means that thousands of girls and young women are being robbed of their childhood due to harmful practices such as FGM.”

To this end, she noted that UNICEF needed to work with its partners to create awareness about the harmful practice and also target communities where the acts are still being carried out, she added.

“For more than a decade, the joint UNFPA-UNICEF programme to end FGM has supported survivors of FGM, prioritizing investments in survivor-led initiatives centered on empowerment and access to essential services. Investment in FGM-survivor-led initiatives contributes to creating environments where girls’ and women’s rights are upheld, promoting well-being and healthy lives. Collaborations are focused on increasing the number of people, including boys and men, engaged through community platforms and forums in reflective dialogue toward eliminating discriminatory social and gender norms and all harmful practices, such as FGM, that affect girls and women.”

According to her, these platforms and forums need to be promoted and their numbers increased.

“We also work with partners to encourage more Nigerians to join the Movement for Good (M4G) to promote FGM elimination in the country actively. The Movement for Good has increased by three million between September and December 2023– but we need many more members.”

In addition, she stated, “We partner with those mentioned in other to increase the number of women and girls who receive prevention and protection services on FGM,” she said.

Lafoucriere pointed out that various challenges were impeding the progress being made toward the advancement of the fight against FGM. “A key challenge has remained addressing social norms capable of prolonging FGM and other practices relating to gender-based violence (GBV). However, UNICEF is integrating gender-transformative approaches and changing social norms into anti-FGM programmes.”

Similarly, to tackle FGM, the chief of UNICEF in the Lagos Office said, UNICEF has started partnering with and engaging with men and boys to shift unequal power relations and challenge the attitudes and behaviours caused by gender inequality that leads to FGM.

“We have also realised that investment in national-level policies and legislation is required in protecting the rights of girls and women, including the development of national action plans to end FGM.”

In addition, she highlighted that UNICEF engages various stakeholders in the healthcare and educational sector in a bid to reduce the burden of FGM in Nigeria.

“UNICEF works with both sectors to ensure the prevention of FGM as well as provide support for affected girls and women. UNICEF has continued to work in schools to sensitise girls, boys, and their teachers to support the campaigns for parents and community leaders to abandon FGM. Healthcare providers have also been reached out to so as to support UNICEF’s efforts to eradicate FGM.

“They have continued to support our efforts in discouraging health workers who may be interested in the practice; and rather deeply involved in campaigning and advocating for its eradication,” she concluded. ——————–END

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