Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki
The battle to end Female Genital Mutilation/cutting (FGM) in Ebonyi State is gradually yielding results in parts of the state. FGM, a common practice in many traditional societies entails partially or totally removing the external genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons.
The practice which is still prevalent in some states in Nigeria poses severe consequences on the victims.
Experts list some of the immediate consequences of the practice to include severe pain and bleeding, shock, difficulty in passing urine, infections, injury to nearby genital tissue and sometimes death, among others.
The long term consequences of the practice include possible complications during childbirth, anaemia, the formation of cysts and abscesses, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), sexual dysfunction, and hypersensitivity of the genital area, among others.
Last week, the 11 communities in Afikpo, Afikpo North Local Government Area of the state, publicly renounced the practice in their areas.
While declaring their abandonment of the practice, the people described FGM as harmful and obnoxious.
The communities are; Itim, Ohaisu, Ibii/Oziza, Opi, Ugwuegu, Amasiri, Ndukwe, Nkpoghoro, Amogu, Amata and Unwana.
In renouncing the practice, they broke various clay pots and other items used in performing female genital mutilation before the public as a mark of their total abandonment of the inhuman practice.
The event which held at Amuro-Mgbom Primary School, Afikpo, was organised by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) with support from the United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF).
Speaking at the occasion, Chairman of Afikpo North traditional rulers’ council, Dr. Ewa Elechi, said “the practice which started many years before I was born is being destroyed today finally; nobody is going to practise it again.
“We invited the women to destroy the tools of FGM because they do the practice and we are happy that they have all agreed to destroy all the
things they use in doing this FGM”.
National Demographic and Health Survey 2013 showed that Ebonyi is the second highest in ranking next to Osun on the list of states in the country where the archaic practice is still being observed with about 74% prevalence rate. It is mostly carried out on young girls within the age of 15.
Because of the harmful effects of the practice which is often done without the permission of the girl child, the World Health Organization and other relevant rights groups across the world declared it a violation of the rights of the girl- child and women and should be stopped.
Recently, the campaign to end the practice in all areas of Ebonyi State had been upped especially with the launching of the Family Succour and Upliftment Progarmme (FSUP), a pet project of the Governor’s wife, Mrs. Racheal Umahi.
Inaugurating FSUP in 2016, Mrs. Umahi had expressed strong desire to wage a sustained war against FGM practice in the state.
Working closely with relevant stakeholders, Mrs. Umahi started visiting various communities in the state to preach against the practice. Her office also produced radio jingles, documentaries and drama plays to educate rural women on the dangers and consequences of the practice.
Interestingly, few months after, many communities in the state started renouncing the practice. In 2017, all communities in Ohaozara Local Government Area unanimously abandoned the practice.
Eze Romaus Iyioku of Ugwulangwu, while announcing the decision of his people to drop the age long practice; lamented that it had brought severe harm on their women.
Iyioku who is Chairman of the traditional rulers’ council in the area, noted that the phenomenon had brought much hazards on women and girls in the area and declared that no one should persecute anyone there for not performing the practice.
Not long after, the people of Izzi clan, comprising Abakaliki, Ebonyi and Izzi local government areas also announced their abandonment of the practice.
At an elaborate event at their ancestral home in Amegu in Izzi Local Government Area, to mark the end of the practice, the people said that it marked a new chapter for the next generation of girls and women leaving within the location and indeed Ebonyi state at large.
Prior to this period, the African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development (AfrYPoD) through its Generational Advocacy by Youths to End FGM in Nigeria (GAYEF) project; co-funded with The Girl Generation, implemented in Ebonyi State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) worked assiduously to obliterate the practice in three local government councils of the state; namely: Ebonyi, Ohaukwu and Ohaozara.
Its strategies included sensitization of students and teachers as well as training of peer educators in Abakaliki High School (Presco), Plato Vocational Secondary School, Ezzamgbo and Ezi Okposi High School, Okposi, Ohaozara.
AfrYPoD had trained over 60 peer educators and sensitized 40 teachers in the three secondary schools in Ebonyi State, while more than 3,000 students were reached with #EndFGM messages in the state.
AfrYPoD President, Dr Laz Eze told Daily Sun that more than 2 million persons had been reached by the group, through the social media with messages discouraging the practice of FGM.
Appraising the successes of the fight against FGM in the state, wife of the Governor, recently said that the prevalence rate of practice in the state dropped from 74.4 per cent in 2016 to 42.3 per cent in 2018.
This was contained in her statement commemorating the International Day of zero tolerance for FGM observed every February 6.
According to her, the “Family Succour and Upliftment Foundation, had since July 5, 2016 championed the campaign against the practice in the state. So far, huge success has been recorded, especially in creating massive awareness among Ebonyi citizens on the consequences of the practice.
“Our efforts have yielded positive results and we have vigorously mobilised traditional rulers, religious leaders, NGOs, institutions and groups to create awareness on the implications of the act.
“Also, we have carried out radio, television programmes and conducted focus group discussions across local government areas as well as embarked on house-to-house advocacy campaigns”.
She further commended the state government, traditional and religious leaders, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and other partners, for their support in the fight against the practice in Ebonyi.
With the rejection of the practice going on in various communities across the state, it is expected that very soon, it would be a thing of the past there.