By Oswald Agwu
In spite of the many investments and campaigns being carried out by government and non governmental organizations alike, against Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria, the practice still persists in most States, taking roots mostly in rural communities.
The 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Surveys (NDHS) show that the national prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting among Nigerian women aged 15 – 49 years stood at 20% representing approximately, only 5% decline from the 25% prevalence reported in 2013 NDHS. This statistics raises concerns about the slow pace at which the practice is being abandoned in the midst of many ongoing public community public denouncement.
In Ebonyi State particularly, although the prevalence dropped from 74.2 percent in 2013 to 53.2 percent in 2018, the State is still rated around the third Highest in Nigeria.
Worried by the development, a nongovernmental Youth Organization, Global Youth Consortium Against FGM recently organized a one-day End FGM summit in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.
The summit supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) brought together youths from all walks of life to share knowledge, experiences and pledge their commitment to bond together in fighting the menace of FGM prevalence in the State.
Participants at the summit acknowledged that while actual clitoral cutting has significantly reduced in Ebonyi State, other forms of mutilation still abounds. They identified ignorance, superstition and other sociocultural factors as responsible for the trend.
Augustine Onwe, country representative of Global Youth Consortium explained that the program was aimed at galvanizing the efforts of young people and bringing more of them onboard the fight against Female Genital Mutilation through proper orientation and education, adding that the target of the group was to achieve a world totally free of FGM by 2030.
Onwe elaborated: “We believe that when you catch them young, educate them, it will go a long way in nipping FGM as an aspect of human rights violation, Sexual and Gender based violence.
“FGM rate in Ebonyi is still at 53. 2 percent which is still very high, and our target is that by the next time we carry out survey of the indicators, we want to see the rate drop to barest minimum if not completely eradicated.
“We are committed to delivering the 2030 promise of zero FGM.
“Our generation must be the one to end FGM, and we don’t want the next generation to experience the practice.”
He noted that while adult Female Genital Cutting seems to be publicly declining, other forms of mutilation such as massaging, numbing, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization have continued to increase especially against the female child.
Speaking to our correspondent at the event, one of the key participants and discussant, Christopher Okorie described the practice of FGM as a brazen abuse of the rights and dignity of the woman and the girl child.
Okorie who is the Ebonyi State Coordinator, National Human Rights Commission added that FGM is not only a life-threatening practice but also one of the major causes of divorce and promiscuity in marriage.
He said: “FGM touches negatively on the rights of a female child.
“When the female genital is mutilated, it touches directly on her rights to human dignity, and if from there, complications arise, it also touches on her right to life.
“Every child has the right not to be violated or violently touched physically, emotionally and psychologically.
“Female genital mutilation can lead to excessive bleeding; It can lead to keloid which causes cancer; it can lead to a woman’s inability to express her sexual feelings as she should, which can lead to divorce, infidelity and other abnormal outcomes.”
Okorie however, admonished FGM survivors not to allow the experience negatively affect their self esteem but to move on with optimism.
“Above all, they should stand up to ensure that future generations do not go through same experiences”, he added.
In a presentation, one of the resource persons and the GYC Programme coordinator in Nigeria, Felx Fame Emisire, explained that there are 4 major types of FGM as classified by the World Health Organization. He named them to include Clitoridectomy in which the clitoris of a female is partially or completely removed; Excision which involves partial or complete removal of the labia minora and or the labia majora.
He identified the third type as Infibulation, in which the vaginal opening of the female is mechanically narrowed and a covering seal created, while the 4th encompasses all other unclassified harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes and includes practices such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing of the genital area.
Emisire decried the situation where women are made objects of pain through genital mutilation stressing that the youth group was determined to reverse the ugly trend.
Speaking on their experience at the summit, two students, Precious Nwigbo of Girls High School, Abakaliki and Peter Nkashi of Abakaliki High School said the summit was packed with knowledge.
They appreciated the organizers while pledging to take the message to their peers in school so that a formidable youth and adolescent movement against FGM would be put in place.
Global Youth Consortium against FGM is a movement of young people formed in 2021 with support from UNFPA. It is made up of youth- focused organisations, young activists who are passionate about eliminating FGM from all over the world. Its slogan is “young people leading a world free from FGM by 2030.”