An unhealthy traditional practice that has destroyed the future of lots of women and girls in decades is the female genital mutilation (FGM). Said to be deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and perceptions, FGM is a practice frowned at both by local and international organisations as a violation of the right of girls and women worldwide.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons. It is said to reflect deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.
Research says FGM is practised in more than 28 countries in Africa. Its burden is felt in Nigeria, Egypt, Mali, Eritrea, Sudan, Central African Republic, and northern part of Ghana. In Nigeria, Osun, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo and Oyo States is said to have the highest prevalence of FGM.
Report also says, FGM is being tackled in Nigeria by WHO, United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Federation of International Obstetrics and Gynecology (FIGO), African Union, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and many women organisations.
A new global target and call to action to eliminate FGM by 2030 was launched on February 6, 2016 during the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM by UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, and UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake.
Data from the Nigeria Demographics and Health Survey report that 24.8 percent of Nigerian girls and women aged 15 to 49 have been circumcised, with states in the South East region accounting for 45 percent of FGM cases; and south-western states accounting for up to 55 percent. The report also shows that cutting occurs mostly at early childhood with 82 percent of women in Nigeria getting circumcised before the age of five.
The practice is usually carried out by traditional birth attendants, who believe it is for the good of the female folk. They note that FGM is for the preservation of chastity and purification, family honour, protection of virginity and prevention of promiscuity.
But UNICEF says FGM does irreparable harm. It can result in death through severe bleeding, pain and trauma and overwhelming infections. It is routinely traumatic and appreciates people who say “NO” to FGM anywhere it is practised
It is against this background that the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria in collaboration with the Human Right Clinic, University of Lagos recently hosted the first ever Frown Awards at the university auditorium. The event focused on celebrating activists who are advancing the abandonment of FGM in Nigeria.
The Frown Awards aim at fighting every form of violence against the girl child and children around the world. The event which had more than 1,000 persons in attendance was sponsored by UNICEF Nigeria to celebrate the milestones that have been recorded in the abandonment of FGM in Nigeria.
Speaking on behalf of UNICEF, Maryam Enyiazu, a child protection specialist, noted in her goodwill message that FGM is a gender-based violence against women and girls and, adding that the event had been carefully planned to align with the 16 days of activism on gender based violence.
“UNICEF is proud to be part of this partnership and is committed to continue supporting government and other stakeholders at all levels to accelerate efforts for the total elimination of FGM in Nigeria by 2030 as stipulated by Sustainable Development Goal 5.3 which is to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation,” she said.
The wife of Ekiti State governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, graced the occasion and was given a special award for her efforts at passing the Gender-base Violence Bill 2013 in Ekiti State, as well as her contribution to FGM abandonment campaign in Nigeria.
In her speech at the event, she promised her unwavering support to ending violence against children in Nigeria.
Ojo Oluwatosin, one of the 12 Frown challenge monthly winners was crowned the overall winner after a fair contest at the programme. Ojimadu Olachi and Bankole Olayinka were second and first runners-up respectively.
on board. In Ekiti State we are on board and I look forward to working with all of you towards ending FGM. I look forward to a generation that does not need to stand up at any meeting to talk about Female Genital Mutilation. It should be a thing of the past, that is where it belongs,” Ojo said.
Nigerian popular artist, Funke Akindele, was also awarded “Frown Awards FGM Ambassador.” This was in recognition and appreciation of her contribution and support for FGM abandonment in Nigeria especially through the Frown challenge.
Mbam Njideka, the student who ran away in Ebonyi State because of the fear of been mutilated and ignited the process of public declaration was awarded “Frown challenge Flame of Hope Award” for her outstanding courage in igniting public declaration against FGM in Izzi clan.
Uche Pedro of Bella Naija, OnomeIgugu of Naija Info FM, Mandy Asagba, the President – African Women Lawyers Association, Nigeria were also given awards for their unending contribution to abandonment of FGM in Nigeria.
Award of honour were given to seven other person for their recognition and appreciation of their contribution to FGM abandonment in Nigeria. They include Flora Egwu, of Child Protection Network, Ebonyi State; Madam Aduke Obelawo, Girls and Child Rights’ activist and FGM abandonment advocate; Professor Sunday Adeoye, the Medical Director, National Fistula Centre Ebonyi State and Alhaja Babalola Adubi, the President, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN). Awards also went to the Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) and Folorunso Philips of Fliptyce.
The host of the event, Ariyeke Akinbobola, was named “FGM Abandonment Advocate of the Year” in recognition of her contributions to FGM abandonment in Nigeria.
The programme was graced by people from all spheres of life.
According to Maryam Enyiazu, the next edition of Frown challenge would commence in April 2019, and end in March 2020.