Zero Tolerance for FGM
Nigeria: Rescuing Rural Women From Circumcision
The world last week, once again, stood up against the dangerous traditional practice of: Female Genital Mutilation, FGM. The United Nations Organisation UNO, set aside every February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. KEHINDE AJOBIEWE takes a look at how successful the campaign has been so far.
This particular day is aimed at intensifying the campaign against the traditional practice that has led to serious health conditions in many rural women.
So many girl-child and women have been made to go through excruciating pains of the sharp blade in the name of circumcision also known as Female Genital Mutilation, in order to fall in line with the customs and traditions of their native land.
Female Genital Mutilation is defined by the World Health Organisation as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Research shows that FGM which is predominant in the rural areas is usually carried out by traditional birth assistants who use knives, razors and some other things to mutilate underage women, thereby making them go through serious pains and loss of blood, which may lead to infections and sometimes death.
It is worthy of note that the campaigns against this practice have yielded some positive results in some African countries. A new United Nations report shows that almost 2,000 communities across Africa abandoned female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) last year, prompting calls for a renewed global push to end this harmful practice once and for all.
According to the report, issued by the UN Population Fund(UNFPA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the total number of communities renouncing FGM/C has now reached 8,000 over the last few years.
"These encouraging findings show that social norms and cultural practices are changing, and communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls and women", said UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C, which is observed on February 6. [Ed: why protect the rights of only one gender? In fact, the rights of boys and men are being aggressively violated by MGM campaigns.]
However, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that though the concerted efforts by several Non Governmental Organisations, Rights activists to put an end to this practice in Nigeria has yielded a commendable result, the rural areas in which the practice is most common are still not carried along. This is because most of the campaigns are urban based.
Due to sensitization and awareness programmes of NGOs to sensitize women on their rights to life and the risks that come with FGM, many women, especially those in the urban areas now set aside taboos and traditions to make their choices, and therefore, no longer subject themselves to unnecessary risks.
Since most of the NGOs are based in the urban areas, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that most rural dwellers who have said no to Female Genital Mutilation are those who have relations in the cities that have informed them of the dangers inherent in the practice.
Speaking on the success the campaign against female genital mutilation has recorded so far, a medical practitioner, Dr. Dale Ogunbayo said the impact of the campaign has not yielded much result in the rural area as it has done in the urban areas.
According to him, "the success has been limited to the urban areas more than the rural areas because the campaign is urban driven. Since female genital mutilation is more prevalent in the rural areas, I think more efforts should be made so that sensitisation messages can be passed to the rural women during ante-natal clinics."
"You have less of it in the urban areas, so if the same drive that is used in pushing the campaign in the urban areas is also directed towards the rural areas, then we will have more success in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria", he added.
Speaking on the relevance of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, Ogunbayo said the relevance is dependent on the impact the campaigns have on the affected women. "The relevance of February 6 depends on the impacts the campaigns have on the women who have been mutilated. If we just eat and drink on the issue without seeing the impact on the people involved, then it has no relevance", he said.
When asked whether there has been a great reduction as compared to the past he said, "yes, there has being a great reduction, but it has not reduced the same way in the rural areas as it has in the urban areas."
In addition, the National Coordinator of Proactive Gender Initiative, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Barr. Esther Uzoma, said that the campaign against Female Genital Mutilation has recorded some successes in Nigeria. According to her, "to a great extent, the campaign has brought light to a very dark area, to the extent that Female Genital Mutilation is a practice that is anchored on religious beliefs.
This campaign has come to diffuse and throw light on all that mystery and superstitions surrounding the procedures because there are so many things that go with the practice. If a woman is not circumcised she will be promiscuous. The campaign has demystified that procedure, information is available to people, even at the grassroots. People now have a choice."
Contrary to what Dr. Ogunbayo said, Uzoma feels the campaign has greatly reduced the rate of Female Genital Mutilation in the rural areas," the birth assistants are now aware that it is not good. The girl-child is no more helpless, it has now become a question of choice based on knowledge".
"Each time we gather as right activists, we talk about issues that affect women, and one of those issues is female genital mutilation because we actually look at it as a form of violence against women, so we educate people by handing out literature and then the people we talk to also talk to other people, who in turn talk to other people", she added.
Speaking on the significance of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, she said," February 6 is to call attention to the need to completely terminate the practice of female circumcision because it's a procedure that is anchored on superstition, so it's a day set aside to try to draw attention to it, because it is one of the leading causes of death".
"In most traditional communities, women are circumcised at the point of birth, the risk is double. Some people believe that once the head of a child touches the clitoris, he must die, so they insist on mutilating their women before they give birth. Some of these women end up losing too much and the hygiene is almost zero, February 6 has been set aside to educate them to deconstruct the believe", she added.