BY EMMANUEL MGBEAHURIKE, Owerri
Women, Mother In-laws admonished to display transparency, consistency in the onslaught against the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and all forms of Violence Against Children (VAC). Even as they are charged to desist from promoting and encouraging the obnoxious practice through the backdoor, as a situation where they accepted to discontinue the practice and renege from their promise is most unacceptable.
This admonition was made by the UNICEF Chief of Field Office Enugu, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh while presenting an address at the 1 day consensus building conference with key stakeholders for the abandonment of FGM in Owerri West and Ehime Mbano Local Government Areas, Imo State.
According to him, Women are expected to be in the Vanguard against the crusade for the elimination of all forms of harmful practices in the society and play pivotal role as the closest to child in shaping and protecting the interest of the child, as this will go a long way to arrest moral decadence in the nation.
Dr. Conteh charged communities yet to key into the public declaration towards ending FGM to expedite action, display enthusiasm in this direction, so as to operate on the same page with other communities that have complied with this directive aimed at breeding safe environment for the girl child. While calling on them to take advantage of this platform presented by UNICEF and NOA.
Dr. Conteh who was represented by Victor Atuchukwu, Child Protection Specialist UNICEF, stressed that UNICEF, recognizes the vital role of communities and these practices are borne out of ignorance and highlighted that with this enlightenment, the citizens are in a better position to spread the message.
His words, “FGM is a societal issue, harmful and painful to the girl child and women. Nobody can give cogent reason for the continuous practice, as there are virtually no gain. We can agree with the communities and reach consensus on the elimination of FGM”. “We are on the same page with you, this is the reason for this level of understanding with you and the stakeholders”.
According to him, UNICEF is optimistic that the collaboration with these communities is an indication of the level of understanding in the quest to eliminate FGM completely and called on those engaged in the practice to desist as the law will soon catch up with them.
He reiterated that almost everyone in the Owerri West and Ehime Mbano Localities and beyond are all aware of the implications of FGM, ignorance of the law according to him is no excuse as anyone caught will face the consequences of his action. He commended NOA and other agencies for working assiduously for the eradication of this ugly menace.
Speaking, Director National Orientation Agency (NOA) in the state, Vitus Ekeocha advised the communities to support the move for the total elimination of FGM and all other forms of violence against the child, as this crusade is for their benefit, health and future of the various communities. He urged them to form a united force in the quest for the total collaboration and declare publicly the abandonment of this nefarious practice.
Ekeocha however encouraged them to work in tandem with UNICEF and NOA with the aim of securing definite date for the declaration by the communities and commended their efforts towards achieving this objective.
He stressed that the sensitization, training for FGM Champions yielded positive results as the communities have indicated their willingness to declare publicly the denunciation of this ugly trend.
His words, “You are not abandoning FGM because of UNICEF and NOA but for the health and future of the girl child. You have shown faith to end the surge and we need to ascertain what you have done towards implementing the resolution of FGM abandonment during our various engagements”.
In her contribution, the Woman Leader, Irete Community, Mrs. Ruth Umah expressed satisfaction in respect of the acceptability of the people in discontinuing this unacceptable trend and explained that a task force has been set up to monitor offenders so as to melt out appropriate sanctions to would be culprits.
Mrs. Ruth Umah revealed that an empowerment scheme has been initiated in the community to serve as an alternative means of livelihood for the Local Women engaged in the FGM profession.
In his comment, the President General, Nneano Agbaja, Nze Chibundu Princewill, stressed the various communities have resolved that FGM is a thing of the past in Ehime Mbano.
According to him, they have resolved to abolish the practice completely in their community and expressed their readiness and commitment to publicly declare against the ugly practice which he stated brings shame and reproach to the populace.
In his comment, Prof. Andrew Igwemma the President General Irete Autonomous Community commended UNICEF, NOA for training the stakeholders and dissemination of information against the dangers of FGM and VAC. According to him, this will go a long way in educating the citizenry on the danger inherent and bring to fore the fact that together we can end FGM and all other forms of violence against children and women in the state.