Education as a Vaccine (EVA) has charged young people in Nigeria to continue to be the voice for change in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in their various communities.
The organization disclosed this in her Second “9jaYouthtalk” Webinar Series on how cultural harmful practices such as Forced and Child marriages as well as Female Genital Mutilation that have negatively impacted on girl children education in Nigeria can be curbed earlier today.
According to Sarbyen Sheni, Programme Office, EVA, “this webinar has become imperative in order to keep engaging young people on these crucial subject matters that affect them and to also seek innovative solutions to this issue of FGM that has been militating against the girl child education in Nigeria and Africa as a Continent”.
Solomon Ogwuche, One of the EVA team while giving overview of FGM Nigeria said: it is an age long harmful traditional practices that has reportedly caused damages to the Health and psychology of most victims which are mostly female children.
One of the Panelists at the discussion, Sola Fagurosi, of One Life Foundation, while speaking said FGM in Nigerian context could be referred to as Female circumcision.
This harmful practices is still widely practice despite the fact that, it was made illegal since Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act was signed into law in 2015. And since it was made illegal no police record had shown that any person has been arrested based on FGM practice.
“FGM is quite prevalent in Nigeria. National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) has shown that in terms of Religion setting Catholics has the highest number of female Genital mutilation in Nigeria. And for the ethnic categories Yoruba and Igbo have the highest prevalence of FGM cases in Nigeria.
NDHS 2018 revealed 9 in 10 women (92%) of Islamic faith were circumcised before age 5 as compared with 77% of women of Catholic faith.
Data by Zone
By zone, the proportion of women circumcised before age 5 is highest in the North West(97%) and lowest in the South South(59%). A quarter(24%) of circumcised women in the South South had the procedure done at age 15 or later.
Why does this practice so prevalent in Nigeria?
Fagorusi said that there are several cultural attachment, customs and even myths that were being discovered in the course of research as major causes for these practices.
“There was a community that we learnt Clitoris are being cut for sale. Why and who are the buyers of these clitoris no one ever mentioned any reason or any buyer to us”
“In another community, Clitoris is cut and string on a tiny rope and sworn around the female waist. According to them they claimed it wards off evil from the wearer.
“FGM is quite harmful to any girl child, what it does to the victims is that, it ends the reproductive cycle of that girl even before she begins her reproductive cycle. This is caused by that singular act of cutting the Libia or Clitoris of that girl child as a baby” Fagorusi said.
Costly Aderibigbe, FGM Activist, who was a panelists at the discourse said she believes in the power of young people in ending the prevalent of FGM which is the major motivation to keep speaking up for others.
“It took a long time to understand the negative impact of FGM before I knew seven years ago. Before that time, I never had idea that I was actually cut as a baby. Since I got this revelation, I have spoken to medical practitioner and I have being well informed on this issue”
“I also believe every young person in Nigeria will continue to lend their voices against this harmful practices that has no benefit but rather damage the anatomy of a female genitalia.”
Harmful Effects of FGM on Girl Child
Aderigbe said there are lots of danger and handful effects of FGM practices for instance, there is high risk of infection as the Traditional Birth Attendant who cuts these babies and girls, uses crude and unsterilized blade and knife.
“And most cases they would use same knife or blades used for one child for another child. So if the first child has HIV there is higher risk of transmitting the virus to other children during FGM practice.” she said.
Another negative impact is keloid that may grow out of her genitalia when the wound isn’t properly taken care of or properly healed.”
“Obstructive labour is another bad effect of FGM. During childbirth, this obstructive labour hinders the baby from coming out easily which often lead to still birth and even death for both the mother and child.”
Aderibigbe added that psychological effects of FGM on a girl child who was probably of age before the practice was performed on her is quite damaging, as the trauma often remains indelible and might grow to the level of resentment for her parents.
FGM has been said to cause sexual dysfunction in the girl child/victim as the main organ that is responsible for sexual satisfaction which is Clitoris had been severed while they were baby.”
“This long term trauma and lack of sexual satisfaction have broken many marriages due to the fact that women involved could not find sexual satisfaction from the husbands.” she added.
Suggested Recommendations and Ways to End FGM in Nigeria
Adebisi who was amongst the panelists, while highlighting the ways to end FGM in Nigeria said community involvement in ending FGM in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized.
“Community Led Approach is the most effective in the campaign against FGM. As this would help in identifying the root cause of FGM in the community in order to tackle it headlong. This is in some cases where the community sees FGM as part of their culture. Community has a major role to play in ending FGM within their community.”
Adebisi said for long term advocacy to yield positive results, the attitude of the health care also matters. Most especially in getting the community to have a change of attitude towards the FGM practice.
“We must Learn to approach them subtly and warmly. For us to have an effective fight against FGM practice we must get the community involved. It mustn’t be one man show.” he said.
Another Panelist, Charles Ugwu, a Volunteer for UNICEF while sharing the impact of Covid 19 in ending FGM said before the Covid 19 there were many health workers working to ensure that communities keep to their words in ending the practice.
“However, since the covid 19 pandemic began the tempo at which these workers engaged the community has dropped. And the fact, that most parents had to stay indoors with their babies made it easier for them to continue with the FGM practice.
“The lesson we learn during covid 19 so far was that we must learn to continue the campaign against FGM. Another lessons from the pandemic is we must leverage on the already existing institutions such as churches, mosque to spread the message in order to cut cost’
We must Learn to use Media platforms and we must priotise community ownership of the campaign, he said.
Damilola Odogbolu speaking on how to end FGM suggested Community Led Approach: “we must learn to work with the community people. This is because FGM is a Social problem. We must collaborate by letting them understand that FGM has no health benefits but rather causes more damage to the victims.
The use of our personal social media space to share relevant information on FGM as Social media advocacy platform is essential
Healthcare provider/workers must also Learn share with their new mothers that FGM is cause a lot of damaging.
Policy issues, we must always charge out policy makers to prioritize policy implementation around FGM
Lateefat who is a FGM survivor while narrating her ordeal at the webinar said her mummy took her to Traditional Birth Attendant in order to get clitoris cut off.
“And when I asked my mother why she said it was a ritual that I needed to go through for me to stay focus in life. Eventually, I was cut, and the pain and trauma I felt remains to this day.”
“I would encourage everyone to support the campaign against FGM as no girl child deserves the pain, violence and trauma asssociated with FGM practice” she said.
Janet, a participant said sensitising the Traditional Birth Attendants and all those involved in such practice is crucial.
“Organization involved in creating awareness on FGM should go to as much local areas, do findings by asking people around about those involved in the FGM practice.
“Organise a program to educate and enlighten them about the harmful practice and the trauma inflicted on girl children” she said.