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EndFGM: UNICEF inaugurates surveillance team in Ebonyi

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By Ruth Oginyi

UNFPA/UNICEF, a collaboration between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in a joint programme with the government of Ebonyi state, has trained community and women leaders, chairpersons and secretaries of women organisations as surveillance teams in Ebonyi state to ensure stoppage of the practice of female genital mutilation.

Uchenna Unah, UNICEF Desk Officer, National Orientation Agency in the state, said the reason for the training was to ensure that female genital mutilation was eliminated in Ebonyi state. 

Unah charged the women to monitor all pregnant mothers in their different communities and localities, especially those who are due for delivery or had given birth to female children not to involve their children in genital mutilation. 
In a paper presented during the training, Unah maintained that culture has more harmful effects that can violate human rights and negatively affect the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of an individual and, worse still, give way to undue opportunities to the practice of FGM. 

He said that the training had been carried out in over 26  communities, specifically in Abakaliki and Ebonyi local government areas of the state, while UNICEF had taken a familiarisation tour to Afikpo South local government area, engaging traditional rulers, women, and community leaders, towards spreading information on the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Unah noted that, every year, about three (3) million girls and women are subjected to the risk of FGM, while it is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide (according to UNICEF 2016 account) are living with the effects of FGM.

In UNICEF’s effort to end FGM in Ebonyi state, Mr. Unah disclosed that from 2015, UNFPA/UNICEF in a joint programme with the state government, had supported interventions in nine local government areas of Ebonyi state, namely – Afikpo North, Ebonyi, Ezza North, Ikwo, Ishielu, Ivo, Izzi, Onicha and Ohaukwu and was later increased to 10 local government areas with the addition of Afikpo South local government area, with accelerating change support to strengthen legal frameworks prohibiting FGM, mobilise healthcare workers and law enforcement officials with requisite skills to provide quality prevention, protection and response services to girls/women at risk and survivors of FGM, as well as galvanize community education and dialogue sessions that support social norm change ending in public declarations of FGM abandonment in some communities.

Speaking on the topic, “Overview of Ending Violence Against Children (VAC),  the head of department, child development, ministry of women affairs and social development, Mr. Igwe Godwin classified violence against children to include all forms of physical or mental violence, injury, and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse.

Godwin further disclosed that there was a high prevalence of violence against children in Nigeria before the age of 18 years.

He noted that six out of 10 children experienced some form of violence, with 50% of all children experiencing physical violence, and called for concerted effort to stem the tide. 

Mrs. Ijeoma  Mike-Aja Nwachukwu, while delivering the paper on “Violence Against Women and Girls” identified the most common forms of violence against women to include; physical, sexual, cultural, socioeconomic, child abandonment, and emotional violence as well as discrimination.

Aja-Nwachukwu emphasised that the major causes of violence against women and girls were gender inequality and discrimination, coupled with the historical and structural power imbalances between women and men which exist in varying degrees across the communities.

She recommended protective factors towards reducing the risk of VAWG to include completion of secondary education, delaying the age of marriage to 18 years, as well as embracing social norms that promote gender equality.

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