Tackling FGM: How Ebonyi’s new political will is yielding results




The practice of female genital mutilationp (FGM) in Nigeria has caused so much harm on women and the girl child. But when custodians of culture in Ebonyi communities came to understand its devious effects, they openly made a declaration against it and now there’s a new political will to finally stamp it out. AMARACHUKWU EGWUAGHA in Abakaliki reports

Female Genital mutilation (FGM) has come to be know as an obnoxious practice of cutting part of the female organ (clitoris). This genital and sensitive part of the female body according to some traditions is believed to make women and girls become sexually promiscuous.

However, this singular act has been found to maim and kill
many women according to findings by medical practitioners and world bodies like the United Nations.

In other to save the feature of girl children and women, United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF) since 2015 have been partnering National Orientation Agency (NOA) Ebonyi state , NGOs and Ebonyi state government to educate the communities about FGM and its effect on women and  girl children as well as other harmful practices done culturally that affects humanity.

Several sensitization programmes has been held in different communities in the state including changing the mindset of the rural dwellers and some elites to understand the reasons why these harmful traditional practices should be abolished.

Denouncement of FGM in 7 Ebonyi LGAs

With constant sensitization done by National Orientation Agency Ebonyi state with support from UNICEF, different groups in the communities on there own began to see reasons to say good bye to this dangerous practice.  Traditional rulers in Ebonyi began to abide by the Violence Against Persons Prohibitions (VAPP) law 005, 2018 of Ebonyi state.

Custodians of culture publicly saying no to FGM

Izzi clan

Rejection of this practice started with the three local governments areas that made up Izii in 2018. They include Abakaliki, Ebonyi and Izii LGAs respectively.

The Chairman of Izii traditional rulers council, Chief Emmanuel Nwojiji, said the decision to end FGM practices was to ensure total compliance, adding that FGM is a practice that ought to be outlawed completely from the society.

“At Amagu in Izzi, we have made people to know the harmful effects of the cutting and as well educate them that one can still fulfil the rite of womanhood without involving cutting.

“We have also constituted task force members who move from one house to another in ensuring that the act is eliminated in our community”.

Afikpo North said no to FGM on November 2019

Speaking at the programme, Chairman of Afikpo North Traditional Rulers Council, HRH Dr. Ewa Elechi, said, “we have come to the climax of this solemn ceremony. Solemn in the sense that something that started many years before I was born is being destroyed today finally. Nobody is going to practice it again.”

According to him, “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.”

Ohaukwu on December2019

Chairman of Izhia Traditional Rulers Council, HRH Dr. Chibueze Onwe Agbo said Female Genital Mutilation has ceased to be a tradition in the area following the open declaration against the practice.

His words,“We have come to realize that the practice of FGM has enormous negative effect not just on the victims but to the society at large and has equally caused our women and girls a lot of hardships which includes; excessive bleeding which mostly leads to death, pain, shock and genital tissue swelling, infections, pain during sexual intercourse, decreased sexual satisfaction which could bring about divorce, husband getting married to other women, and extra marital affairs, vaginal discharge and itching.

“We fully recognize and align ourselves with the Ebonyi state violence against persons probation law 2008, or any other law prohibiting the practice in Ebonyi state, and further undertake to apprehend and handover anybody within our community whom by an act or omission is involved in the practice of Female Genital Mutilation to the security agents or any other government body so that the law will take its own course”.

Ivo

At Ishiagu, the council headquarters of Ivo local government area on Saturday October 31st during the public abandonment of FGM practice by Ivo people, His Royal Highness, Eze Moses Okafor Ngele, agu lll of Ishiagu, said they will track girl child birth to ensure that they are not Mutilated in the Communities.

Agu lll , who is also the Chairman, Ivo Local Government area traditional rulers council, said, “we will set up surveillance system in Ishiagu community that will track the birth of every girl- child and monitor them to ensure that they are not subjected to FGM.

“We will handover any community member who engages in FGM to appropriate security agencies for prosecution in accordance with the Ebonyi state violence against persons (prohibition) law 2018, or any other law prohibiting the practice in Ebonyi state.”

He added that a seven-man committee was inaugurated to monitor adherence of the people over the prescription earlier made.

Afikpo North on November 2019

Speaking at the programme, Chairman of Afikpo North Traditional Rulers Council, HRH Dr. Ewa Elechi, said “we have come to the climax of this solemn ceremony. Solemn in the sense that something that started many years before I was born is being destroyed today finally. Nobody is going to practice it again.”

According to him, “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  this FGM.”

Meanwhile, the Chief-UNICEF Enugu Field Office Dr. Ibrahim Conteh, represented by the agencies consultant, Benjamin Mbakwem during the public the denouncement event at Ishielu and Ivo LGAs on 29 and 30th October 2020 explained that UNICEF with it supporting partners has been working towards achieving a society free of FGM practices. 

He said, “since  2015, UNICEF has been supporting the implementing partner to support social norms change  through advocacy, dialogue, education, sensitisation, community mobilization, and consensus-building 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 denounce FGM practices, respectively. We remain grateful to them”. 

Also, the Director, National Orientation Agency(NOA), Ebonyi state, Dr. Emmanuel Abah listed the seven local governments in the state that have outlawed FGM to include; Abakaliki, Ebonyi, Izzi, Afikpo North, Ishielu and Ivo LGAs.

He explained that all the communities in the seven local government areas have made open declaration against the age-long practice and that the agency was working on two more local governments in the state to also outlaw the phenomenon.

Abah said, “these communities which 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”. 

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