By Ruth Oginyi
Coalition of Eastern NGOs, (CENGOs) has called on media practitioners to join the fight against female genital mutilation in Ebonyi State through investigative and balanced reportage and publications.
CENGOs is a group of civil society organizations, based in the old eastern states of the federation.
The one-day training for media practitioners in Ebonyi to sharpen their skills in their reportage on Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C), was organized by Ebonyi CENGOS in partnership with Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) with support from Amplify change.
Nancy Oko Onya State Coordinator of CENGOs explained that the media engagement was aimed at strengthening the campaign to end FGM/C in Ebonyi which according to health research is ranking high in the south-east.
Nancy Oko-Onya expressed sadness that Ebonyi was top in the list of states in the South-East with the highest prevalence rate in the practice of FGM.
She said that the latest report has put Imo state as second in the South-East while Osun state is the highest in the practice of FGM in Nigeria.
CENGOs said that Nigeria was the third in Africa in the practice of female genital mutilation while Egypt and Ethiopia are taking the lead.
Nancy who doubles as the Executive Director, NIWA said that a vigorous campaign was needed to ensure the elimination of the degrading and harmful practice against the girl-child and women.
She noted that Ebonyi and Imo were selected for the pilot program in the Southeast.
“The organization is working on a two-year project to end FGM/C practice in Ebonyi and Imo state and our target LGAs are Abakaliki, Ebonyi, and Afikpo North,”.
She urged journalists to use their various media platforms to launch a tough campaign against the evil practice of FGM/C which people practice in different forms including massaging of the clitoris with Vaseline and share butter.
“There is no known health or medical benefit of FGM, hence we must collectively act to end the practice in our various communities,” she added.
A resource person, Dr. Ronke Afolabi, with Alex Ekwueme federal teaching hospital Abakaliki in her presentation listed clitoridemus; excision, infibulation, and general unclassified genital injuries as the four forms of FGM.
She said that the practice was a gross violation of the sexual and reproductive rights of the girls and women with severe medical and health implications.
Dr. Afolabi argued that any interference with the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons amounted to mutilation and urged parents to desist from the act.
She stated that medicalization of FGM would not reduce the long-term effect but rather could only offer a short-term benefit including reduction of infections.
Adding that the government spends a huge amount of money to treat complications that arise from mutilation.
She said: “The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that $1.4billion is spent annually to treat complications arising from FGM globally and that the amount may double.
“Females are the ones at risk when we talk about FGM but it can span from infancy even to old age; it can be done at infancy, adolescence, and occasionally on adult women during childbirth
“The burden is still very high in Nigeria but this practice is concentrated in some parts of the world, and it’s more prevalent among the black race.”
She said that an estimated 25 percent of the Nigerian girls and women underwent one form of FGM or the other.
“The sad thing is that Nigeria is ranking third in Africa in this practice, and we are the ones that will stimulate action to put an end to the practice,” she added.
Also, a veteran broadcast journalist Comrade. Barikamou Adou, in his presentation, urged media practitioners to create contents that would serve to educate the populace on the evil effect of FGM.
The erstwhile, zonal manager radio Nigeria, urged journalists to pitch out adequate information through relevant mediums at the right time to inform, enlighten, and educate the people on the negative implication of FGM.
Some journalists in their different submissions advocated for religious partnership in the war against FGM in the state as the church, lives closer to the people.