Some women groups in Owerri West and Ehime Mbano Local Government areas of Imo State have lauded UNICEF and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) for their concerted efforts to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the state.
The women gave the commendation at a one-day “Training, Orientation and Mobilisation of ENDFGM Community Champions”, held at All Saints Anglican Church, Umuguma in Owerri West and Ehime Mbano Local Government áreas on Saturday.
The Newsmen reports that the two local government areas are made up of 52 communities with Owerri West having 21 communities, while Ehime Mbano has 31 communities.
The women said it was necessary that old cultural and traditional practices with pains and disadvantages against women be dealt away within Imo communities.
According to them, many people have been misled, put in danger, or made to die as a result of ignorance and petty belief about cultural practices such as FGM.
The women commended NOA and UNICEF for their training programs that created awareness on the implications, laws, and subsequent consequences of FGM and other harmful cultural practices on the girl-child and women.
Mrs. Chinyere Ejiogu from Orogwe in Owerri West Local Government and Chair Lady of Umunganwoke Women Association said that many people, especially women, had been misled due to ignorance.
She described the training as essential and eye-openers and called on women in the communities to stop the cutting or mutilation of female genitals at any point in life.
She commended UNICEF and NOA for the training programs and promised to help to spread the message around in her community which comprised of six villages.
Mrs. Chinyere Manu from Umalum-Nekede Owerri West and Secretary-General, Nekede Ancient Kingdom Women Association, expressed gratitude to UNICEF and NOA for creating awareness on FGM, saying that many women and families had suffered and were still suffering from effects of FGM.
She advised women to stop the practice of FGM, which she said, had many disadvantages and promised to help spread the message to help end FGM in her community.
Mrs. Clara Nkwocha from Okolochi- Owerri West and the Acting President of Udodiri Women Group, expressed gratitude to the organizers, saying that the training had exposed the negative effects of FGM and how to champion the message to people in their communities.
She said FGM was fraught with embarrassing consequences to women and the girl-child and promised to pass the message of its abandonment through youths, women meetings, and from house-to-house.
At Ehime Mbano LGA, Mrs. Chinyere Ejigha from Umakagu Autonomous Community, said that people were ignorant of many things and except they were thought and informed would remain ignorant.
Ejigha, also Secretary of Umuakagu Women Group, which has six villages, expressed happiness that the training programs were brought to her community to help save the lives of girl children and women.
“The training program is informative and educative. NOA and UNICEF are doing communities in Imo a good favor. They are putting a lot of effort to ensure the end of FGM, and we are grateful for that.
“We were informed that FGM does not cause promiscuity in women, but improper training.
“Women should know the dangers of FGM to their girl children. The Programme has created a lot of awareness in my community. We now know better,” Ejigha said.
Mrs. Maria Obioha from Umuezeala Ogwara Autonomous Community, Ehime Mbano, said she had been re-orientated on the issues of FGM and other harmful cultural practices that needed to be stopped in communities in the state.
According to her, women that had FGM performed on them experienced difficulties during child delivery unlike those who did not, while others encountered problems as a result of FGM which they carry throughout life while others die.
She pledged to carry the message to women in her community and thanked NOA and UNICEF for the message which had brought women out of the darkness and discomfort-into light and safety.
The state Director of NOA, Mr. Vitus Ekeocha, explained the properties, dynamism, value, benefits and harmful effects of culture and tradition and factors were reinforcing the practices.
He identified other harmful cultural practices to include tribal marks, widow inheritance, early marriage/childbearing, preference for sons over daughters, forced marriage, and FGM.
He described FGM as any partial or total removal of the external genital organ of a woman for non-medical reasons, adding that three million girls and women in Nigeria were at risk of FGM.
Ekeocha said that FGM had serious implications for the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women and listed the immediate and short-term physical health complications of FGM to include intense pain, excessive bleeding, and difficulties during intercourse and childbirth.
He said that the UNICEF and NOA had been engaged in many activities in Imo to end FGM.
Ekeocha said these activities included the UNFPA/UNICEF joint program on the elimination of FGM, supporting the state government to strengthen legal framework prohibiting FGM and UNICEF support interventions in seven LGA’s in Imo namely, Ngor-Okpala, Oguta, Ikeduru, Ihitte-Uboma, Ehime Mbano, Idiato North and Owerri West.
He charged the participants to collaborate with their religious leaders to protect girls and women in the 21 communities of Owerri West and in Ehime Mbano LGAs to abandon FGM completely and other harmful traditional practices.
Earlier, the UNICEF Programme Officer, Mr. Chigozie Orjiaku, said the training was to review the beneficial and harmful effects of culture and tradition and the impact of FGM on the health and well being of the people of Owerri West and Ehime Mbano.
He said it was also to increase the participants’ capacity to educate community members about the dangers of FGM, motivate them to stop the practice, and support women and girls subjected to FGM or risk of FGM to get help.
He said it would equally increase the participants’ ability to advocate for the public declaration of the abandonment of FGM and the establishment of a surveillance system to track compliance to commitments made during the declaration.
Chigozie said the training program would also increase participants’ knowledge of preventing and responding to Violence Against Children (VAC) and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and COVID-19.
Speaking on “Ending Violence Against Children (VAC) and Violence Against Women and Children (VAWG) and Reducing the Spread of COVID-19 and Child Protection”, Mrs. Ifeoma Dike from the Ministry of Gender Affairs and Vulnerable Group, advised participants to acknowledge the prevalence of VAC/VAWG.
She urged women to identify the various forms of violence against children and women in the community, discuss and agree on preventive and responsive measures, and strategies to put in place to address and end VAWG in their communities.