The war against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has taken new dimension in Ebonyi State with surveillance against the communities that publicly denounced the age-long harmful practice. That is to ensure they don’t go back to the phenomenon amidst more sensitization by the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) and National Orientation Agency (NOA). UCHENNA INYA, in Abakaliki, reports
Historically, Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) is an Egyptian culture that started in the days of Pharaoh. Egyptian girls were very beautiful and Pharaoh reportedly married a lot of them that came his way. Pharaoh had many women and girls and was unable to sexually satisfy all of them.
He was seen as a very jealous man who will not like any of his women and girls he had as wives and concubines to be meeting men for sexual satisfaction.
As result of this, he ordered that those women and girls he had and couldn’t sleep with all of them because of their large numbers be circumcised and they were all circumcised, so that they will not be promiscuous.
Because of migration, female circumcision started spreading to other African countries including Nigeria and other parts of the world. In Nigeria, Osun State became the highest with the prevalence of FGM while Imo and Ebonyi states became highest in South East. Investigations showed that any girl that was circumcised cannot enjoy sex as she often feels pains when having sex. Most of the victims run away from sex.
This has caused problems in many marriages with many husbands divorcing their wives. Also, many girls and women mutilated, bled to death while some children mutilated contracted HIV/AIDs from unsterilized razor blades used in circumcising them by Traditional Birth Attendants.
It is as a result of these negative consequences that the wife of the state Governor, Mrs. Rachael Umahi, launched aggressive campaign against the harmful practice in the state three years ago and championed a law against it known as Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) with N200,000 fine and imprisonment against the perpetrators.
Various organizations, including United Nations Children Fund(UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA), Network Initiative For Women Advancement(NIWA), National Orientation Agency(NOA) among others took up the war against the practice and started entering various communities in the state, sensitizing the people against the phenomenon.
Many communities saw reasons to do away with the harmful practice and publicly denounced FGM. Already,
areas of the state have outlawed the practice. The local governments are; Abakaliki, Ebonyi, Izzi, Afikpo North, Ishielu and Ivo.
The people of these communities denounced the harmful practice and destroyed the things they used in practicing it. United Nations Children Fund(UNICEF) and the state National Orientation Agency(NOA) witnessed the public declaration against the phenomenon.
Traditional Rulers and other custodians of cultures of the communities in those seven local governments participated in the public declaration. In his remarks in Ivo and Ishielu local governments during the people’s public declaration against the practice, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh, Chief-UNICEF Enugu Field Office said that, “since 2015, UNICEF has been supporting the implementing partners to support social norms change through advocacy, dialogue, education, sensitisation, community mobilization, and consensusbuilding to facilitate community commitments to enhance positive changes on gender and social norms and for the collective abandonment of FGM.
While this is going on, girls and women who need FGM-related services are referred for prevention, protection and care services.
“During this period, the engagement with religious leaders and traditional rulers has led them to make public statements delinking FGM from religious requirements and publicly denounced FGM practices, respectively. We remain grateful to them”.
The State Director of National Orientation Agency(NOA), Dr. Emmanuel Abah, explained that the implication of the public declaration against the practice by the communities is that no one in the communities will say that he or she is not aware that FGM is now forbidden in those communities. Abah said: “These communities, who have denounced FGM have shown the world that they have abandoned the practice.
The implication is that whoever that does it after the declaration will not claim that he/she is not aware that it has been outlawed. So, any sanction, any punishment, anything that can be meted by the communities, the person will not claim that he/she is ignorant of it.
The communities can now handover the recalcitrant people to the law enforcement agents for prosecution. “Three local governments in Izzi land; Abakaliki LGA, Ebonyi LGA and Izzi LGA have denounced the practice. Ohaukwu, Afikpo North, Ishielu and Ivo LGAs have also denounced it.
The communities in these local governments have made open declaration against FGM. We are working more on two local governments, preparing them for declaration and the whole 13 LGA any moment from now”.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF ) had blamed medical practitioners and Traditional Birth Attendants(TBA) for increasing cases of Female Genital Mutilations(FGM) in the state UNICEF explained that health workers were most expected to be at the forefront of sensitisation of the populace on the dangers of FGM and not engaging in it.
It stated this on the occasion of a oneday training workshop program, organized for law enforcement officers and judiciary officers on the Violence against persons (prohibition) law, No.002 of 2018, by Ebonyi State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (MWASD) with support from UNICEF, which held in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of the state.
Addressing participants at the event, Director, Child Protection in the state Ministry of Women Affairs, Godwin Igwe , who represented UNICEF at the event, noted that medical practitioners formed the rapid increase witnessed in FGM.
He however said there was need for a grassroots sensitization in other to disabuse the mind of uninformed parents that the doctors are misleading them. Igwe said: “The trained and quack medical practitioners are enhancing Female Genital Mutilations in the state.
They deceive uninformed parents that they have anesthetic; they shouldn’t mind the claims that FGM is bad; that what is bad about it is the pain; that they have injections they will give to cut the clitoris; that there would be no harm.
“So, we are saying that there is a need to wage the relentless war. It is not to the urban based. We need to go to the hinterland to inform the people, to disabuse their minds. It is not all about gathering in the hotels.
We can go to the market square, not to the traditional rulers alone. Some people owe no allegiance to the traditional rulers because some of them are not the choice of the people.
That is why it is important to meet the people in their groups, churches, August meetings to tell them that it is not only because of pain that we say they should abandon FGM but other negative effect that follows.
“There is a need to get not only the medical doctors in the hospital, not only the licensed ones, the patent medical practitioner that are spread in all the nooks and crannies of the rural areas. They need to be reached or train them;
let them understand that what they are doing is not good because they may not understand all these consequences we are talking of. “When we talk of medical workers, or practitioners, it is not only the licensed ones.
There are some people who are in the village, who did not go to secondary school that are doing operations, claiming that what one man can do, another man can do it. “Cases of FGM are usually done in the secret. Some case of doctor’s that practice it has been taken to the ministry of health, and punishment has been given to them.
Some of their licenses were withdrawn from them”. Meanwhile, UNICEF and NOA, have commenced inauguration of surveillance teams against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) in some communities in the state that have denounced the age- long practice to ensure that no member of the communities go back to the practice after their public declaration against the practice. Some members of the community members are currently being trained by UNICEF for the surveillance against FGM.
The communities, including Ntezi in Ishielu Aocal Government Area, Ishiagu in Ivo Local Government, Okaleru in Ezza North Local Government among others, had selected those that will form the surveillance teams and presented to UNICEF and NOA which is currently training and inaugurating them.
UNICEF Desk Officer at the state National Orientation Agency, Uchenna Unah, charged the surveillance team to move into their communities to monitor them and ensure that no member of the communities goes contrary to their decision against FGM.
He further urged them to monitor the birth of new babies in their localities, especially the female ones, to ensure that they were not mutilated after their birth, describing FGM as evil against God and humanity.
He alleged that the perpetrators of FGM have devised new methods of the act, including robbing Vaseline cream on the private part of newly born baby girls and pressing the private parts of the babies very hard, which according to him, will destroy the private parts and their dignity of womanhood when they grow up, which he said necessitated the surveillance team against the ugly trend.
On his part, the state Director, National Orientation Agency, Dr. Emmanuel Abah, explained that the surveillance teams were like criminal investigation unit of the communities. “This training is a post public declaration activity because after public declaration, everybody has been informed now that this is a problem in their communities.
Then, how do we ensure that people comply? The communities will now on their own inaugurate a surveillance team that will be monitoring the activities of hospitals, health centres, Traditional Birth Attendants(TBAs), the individuals to make sure that they comply with the basic tenets of the abandonment, to make sure that nobody goes contrary to the resolution of the communities against FGM; to make sure that they comply against Violence Person’s Prohibition Law(VAPP law), Child Rights Act.
“These people; the surveillance team are like criminal investigation units of the community to make sure that nobody goes contrary to the decisions of the community .
The good thing about their activities is that they can make correction. If they see somebody who wants to perpetrate FGM, they can stop them and if the person insist they can now make a report”, he stated.