Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
The horrible and painful experience the female child in Ebonyi State often goes through in the name of circumcision may soon be a thing of the past. This follows the concerted efforts the wife of the state governor, Mrs Rachael Umahi, is making to bring the ugly practice to an end.
In Ebonyi, just like few other states in the country and other places around the world, female child is circumcised.
The practitioners of this act, Oriental News gathered, have the belief that it prevents such girl child from being promiscuous when she grows to adulthood, among other reasons.
But given the grave damage the practice inflict on the victims, the international community in the 1970s launched an offensive against the ugly practice.
The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 2016 estimated that 200 million women living in 30 countries have undergone female circumcision. Out of this figure, the 27 countries are found in Africa, Indonesia, Iraq Kurdistan and Yemen.
Female Genital Mutilation is usually conducted some days after birth to puberty and beyond, typically carried out by traditional circumciser using a blade. In half the countries for which national figures are available, most girls are reportedly cut before the age of five.
Procedures differ, according to the country or ethnic group, and they include removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glans; removal of the inner labia and removal of the inner and outer labia and closure of the vulva.
In this last procedure known as infibulations, a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid; the vagina is opened for intercourse and opened further for childbirth.
But determined to end this practice in Ebonyi State, Mrs. Umahi convened stakeholders for a policy dialogue recently as part of activities to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
The event held at the Akanu Ibiam International Conference Centre, Abakaliki has as theme: “Ending FGM is a political decision” and was attended by top government officials, including the state governor, Chief David Umahi.
Mrs. Umahi disclosed that the state in 2013 had prevalence cases of 74.4 per cent of FGM, but had it reduced to 43 per cent in 2017.
She said she was motivated to launch the campaign against female genital mutilation in July, 2016 when the state was recorded as the second most prevalent state in the country.
“Female genital mutilation was launched on Tuesday 5th July, 2016 at a time Ebonyi State was rated as the second most prevalent state in Nigeria. The immediate task of the campaign was to identify those involved in this barbaric practice and why it has remained a challenge,” she said.
She said the state was able to make appreciable success in the fight against the ugly practice because she got the endorsement of critical stakeholders such as the traditional rulers’ council and other traditional institutions, political leaders, relevant groups and development partners such as UNICEF, USAID, and UNFPA, among others.
She said so far, she had made appreciable success in the fight and campaigns against female circumcision in less than two years after the programme was kick-started.
She disclosed that the state has successfully passed a law to prohibit violence against persons commonly called the VAPP law, which part of the law addresses the issue of FGM.
Governor Umahi commended his wife for initiating a law to end female genital mutilation. He condemned the ugly practice, describing it as barbaric and terrible.
“This wonderful part you have chosen to help the government end FGM is a very wonderful task. And let me thank you again for initiating a law which was taken to the house of assembly, which you followed up for speedy passage.
“Women are well protected by the law. Why the bill has not been enacted into law was because we had to study the law; it is over-protecting the women. So, the House of Assembly will take time to review the law. Be assured that the law would be assented to soon,” said Umahi.
The governor pledged to support UNICEF programmes towards ending FGM even as he called on all health facilities to preach against it even as he directed the Commissioner for Education to write letters to all the schools to preach against the scourge.
“To show our total support for the fight against FGM the state government is adopting the programme as its own, and we are donating the sum of N20 million as our commitment to support the Family Succour and Upliftment Programme of Her Excellency,” Umahi said.
In his speech, the UNICEF Field Officer Enugu, Dr Ibrahim Conthe, called on government all over the world to support the campaign against FGM.
While he appreciated Mrs .Umahi on her efforts which has reduced the scourge to 43 per cent, he said that statistics showed earlier in 2011 that over 62.3 per cent of girls in the state were circumcised.
UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Mrs. Nkiru Maduechesi, preached against the use of petroleum jelly, menthol, hot water, lemon and other similar substances on girl child’s genitals, pointing out that it is also a form of mutilation.