By Amby Uneze
For embarking on consistent sensitization towards the eradication of female genital mutilation (FGM) and violence against children and women (VAC) in communities in Imo State, community leaders in Owerri West and Ehime Mbano council areas have eulogized the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) for her noble effort.
The community leaders also warned parents to discard the culture forthwith or face severe sanctions for their action.
As part of measures to enforce this, the community leaders comprising traditional rulers, presidents general, women and youth leaders said that they had established monitoring teams in their various localities to place a tab on parents, traditional birth attendants and other proponents of the culture which they noted had continued to ruin the girl child and the society at large.
Speaking at a one day UNFPA – UNICEF joint programme on the elimination of FGM – accelerating changes organized by the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Imo State with support from UNICEF held in the communities, the Youth Leader, Ugirike autonomous community, Ikeduru LGA, Mr. Uzor Onyenagbaya; the President General of Umualumaku Umueze, Mr. Austine Abaneme; and the Women Leader, Owubibi community, Ikeduru LGA, Mrs Scholastica Iwuji, disclosed that FGM had since been outlawed in their respective communities because of the horror and danger associated with it.
In his goodwill message, chief of UNICEF Nigeria, Field Office Enugu, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh, noted that FGM had continued to linger in most communities as a result of ignorance, primitivity and superstition among the people.
The UNICEF chief said that the percentage of the girl child that had died as a result of FGM had become quite alarming, adding that pains, trauma, shock, infections such as HIV, hepatitis, psychological problems such as sexual dysfunction in marriage, low self esteem, loss of blood leading to anaemia, disability due to fracture, child and maternal mortality and keloid formation were among the problems associated with FGM.
The President General, Ohii autonomous community, Uzochukwu Azutalam, who spoke in tandem with his Oforola counterpart, Chief Robinson Nwankwo, described the exercise as timely and a step in the right direction to spare the girl child from the horror associated with FGM.
The traditional ruler of Okpala Umuekwunne community, Eze Bara Ikegwu, and the President General of Eziama Ngor-Okpala, Oluchi Nwele, equally unfolded measures already put in place to end the practice.
They vowed to enforce the Imo State House of Assembly Law, 2017 which spelt out 14 years imprisonment or N250,000 fine or both for anyone found guilty of the act.
Eze Joe Anika of the Attah in Ikeduru LGA commended Governor Hope Uzodinma for the official recognition accorded presidents general of the various communities in the state, stating that this had eased the burden of traditional rulers in grassroots development.
“There is a scientific proof that FGM is harmful and I have placed a penalty of N5,000 and other sanctions for anybody who indulges in it in my community while traditional birth attendants have been banned,” he said.
The state Director of NOA, Mr. Vitus Ekeocha, classified FGM into four groups and enumerated its inevitable consequences and implications on the girl child.
Ekeocha, who described FGM as any procedure that involves total or partial removal of parts of the female reproductive organ not based on medical grounds, said that it is a violation of the rights of the girl child.
He named Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Ngor Okpala, Owerri West, Ehime Mbano, Ikeduru and Ideato North as areas with the highest prevalence of FGM in the state.
The NOA director therefore enjoined the stakeholders to disseminate information on the dangers inherent in FGM to the grassroots.