By Obike Ukoh
Female Genital Mutilation is prevalent in Ebonyi. The state indeed ranked second in the FGM burden in Nigeria.
Concerted efforts were made over the years, but FGM stilled remained a public health issue in the state.
The World Health Organisation listed obstetric complications associated with FGM to include, difficult labour, obstetric tears/lacerations, instrumental delivery, prolonged labour, and extended maternal hospital stay, among others.
WHO says the risks increase with the severity of the FGM.
Mrs Rachael Umahi, wife of Ebonyi governor, continued where others stopped in the campaign to end the obnoxious practice.
The focus of the governor’s wife pet project, “Family Succour and Upliftment Foundation,’’ among others, is the eradication of FGM.
Through the efforts of the foundation, UNICEF and other stakeholders, the various communities in Ebonyi have publicly banned FGM.
In Ohaozara Local Government Area, traditional rulers in the area unanimously agreed to ban the practice.
Eze Romanus Iyioku, Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council, regretted the prevalence of the harmful traditional practice in the area, hence the abolition.
“The abolition of the harmful practice was as a result of its prevalence in the area which had caused health challenges and even death of our young girls,” he said.
The monarch assured the government and development partners that female circumcision would no longer be practised in the area.
“We, therefore, declare that we have today expunged the practice of FGM from our culture and mandate that every ruler should publicise and effect this decision in his domain.’’
The representative of UNICEF, Enugu Field Office, Dr Ibrahim Conteh said that female genital cutting reduced from 72 per cent in 2011 to 43 per cent in 2016.
Conteh assured the governor’s wife of readiness to support and work closely in the fight against the harmful practice.
“Forty three per cent is still very high. We need to bring it down to zero with lots of progress because we have a long way to go.
“It is wrong to mutilate a woman; it has a lot of implications especially during child birth.
“So the strong campaign with UNICEF, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other partners will put an end to the obnoxious practice,” Conteh said.
Mr Diene Keita, representative of UNFPA, who spoke, said the practice contributed to high infant and maternal mortality in Ebonyi.
Keita said thatEbonyi ranked second highest burden of FGM in Nigeria followed by Osun, Ekiti, Imo and Oyo states.
“FGM is still one critical public health issue in Ebonyi in spite efforts by government, development partners and civil societies.
“We identify with the women of the state who bear the unnecessary pain and agony,” he said.
In her remarks, Mrs Umahi said she embarked on the campaign when she discovered the ranking of the state in the practice.
“This evil practice should stop. It made me sad when I heard we ranked second highest on the practice in the country,” she said.
The governor’s wife urged traditional rulers, religious leaders and other stakeholders to sensitise the people on the dangers of the practice.
To give teeth to the abortion of the practice by the traditional institutions across the state, two women in Okpuitumo community of Abakaliki Local Government Area who allegedly carried out genital mutilation on 11 girls were publicly paraded.
Also paraded were five parents of the victims for allegedly approving and presenting their daughters for the illegal act.
Mr Donatus Owo, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor’s Wife, said that they would be charged to court.
Owo said the act violated the provisions of Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law of the state.
“We now have local government monitoring committees at the council level and the state monitoring committee, headed by Mrs Stephanie Ekuma Nkama, the Special Assistance (SA) to Wife of the Governor.
“For the local government, it is the chairpersons and for the communities we have the traditional rulers.
“Now, anybody they arrest would be forwarded through this channel and we will now get lawyers and take them to court.
“The governor has clearly directed that they should be charged to court; the two women and the parents of the children.
“The parents are about five here and the fine is N200, 000 or five years imprisonment or both,” Owo said.
The traditional ruler of the community, Eze Stephen Ukpa, who witnessed the parade of the suspects, regretted that some of his subjects still engaged in the practice.
The community had on June 19, 2017, abolished FGM in the area.
To support the campaign against FGM, Ebonyi Government in 2018, donated N20 million to the Family Succour and Upliftment Foundation, for its FGM activities.
Gov. Dave Umahi annonounced the donation during a policy dialogue in commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM.
The governor said that the practice had been an aged long culture that has no benefit, but causes more harm to women and girls in the society.
He commended his wife for the initiative and the efforts so far in supporting the state government in the fight against the trend.
“FGM practice is a culture with no benefit. The foundation is however a wonderful pet project,’’ the governor said.
Umahi commended the UNICEF and National Orientation Agency (NOA), for their contributions in the reduction of the prevalence of the practice in the area.
The governor directed that the Ministry of Education should educate students on the dangers of FGM Mrs Adline Idike, a former Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi, described the act as a cultural practice that had become endemic for some people and as part of their life.
Idike said to reverse the trend required serious reorientation of the people.
“Law per say, will not do it, but we need to go into persuasion and this can be achieved through sensitisation and enlightenment.
“This will enable these people, who believe in this practice to think like others, understand it and this will take years for it to be achieved.,” Idike said.
The vigorous effort of government to reduce the prevalence is yielding result as it reduced by 32.1 per cent as at 2018.
The governor’s wife said that the prevalence rate of FGM in the state dropped from 74.4 per cent in 2016 to 42.3 per cent in 2018.
Umahi made this known in a statement to mark the 2019 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
She said that as part of the efforts to check the practice, the state government enacted the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law.
The governor’s wife said that her pet project, ‘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.
“We have also carried out radio, television programmes and conducted focus group discussions across the local government areas as well as embarked on house-to-house advocacy campaigns,” Umahi said.
”With sustained enlightenment, Ebonyi will definitely exit as FGM endemic state.