Preston Development Foundation, a non-governmental organisation in Nigeria, on Thursday organised a program in Abuja to campaign against female genital mutilation.
The World Health Organization said Nigeria has the highest prevalence rate of FGM in the world, with about 40 million women said to have undergone the practice in the country, thus indicating about 41 per cent prevalence.
The awareness stunt, held at the Federal Ministry of Health car park at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, required the campaigners to lie on the ground as a sign of advocating against the practice, and to symbolise the harm it does to women, especially during child birth.
According to the WHO, FGM includes all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for cultural and non-medical reasons.
Zikar Elendu, programme officer, PDF, said the organisation embarked on the awareness campaign because of new cases in the country.
She urged the federal government to take stringent measures to campaign against the practice, especially within the hospital environment.
“Our lying down here symbolizes what happens to many of those cut during child birth. Many of them die during child birth, many of them have difficulty during labour because they have been cut, most of them cannot enjoy the sexual aspect of life and it is wrong”.
Ms. Elendu said women cut were punished for crimes they were yet to commit.
“It is like sending them to jail for a crime they have not committed. Female Genital Mutilation makes girls pay a lifetime price for an “offence” they did not and might never commit.
“Promiscuity which is arguably the major reason for female circumcision in Nigeria has been proven to be more related to poverty, peer influence, poor parental supervision and drug use and not necessarily being uncircumcised. FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women”.
She said 40 million women and girls in Nigeria have undergone FGM and urged government to take serious measures to fight the practice.
“At PDF, we believe that FGM is more than a policy. We believe that behind every statistical expression is a victim, a girl child that has paid a lifetime price. We want the layman on the street to know about the dangers of FGM. We want every mother to know that FGM is in no way an empowerment. We want women to know that FGM has never been about the girl’s good or happiness.
“That is why we have organised this awareness stunt and social media campaign to demand action in order to end FGM. We hereby urge urgent action from the government as well as communities to end FGM,” she said.
Ms. Elendu said government passing a law against it would go a long way to reduce the practice and pains women go through during child birth.
Nwando Onuigbo-Chatta, the knowledge management officer of the organisation, said Nigeria might be able to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality if FGM is stopped as it is one of the causes of death during child birth.
“Though there is no statistics in the country to specify how many people lose their lives during child birth due to complications of FGM, it is a known fact that some people die during the process because they have been cut.
“We want more than just words for the government to ban the practices, we want action, as we believe if the government join hand with us to prosecute people who carry out these acts, we will be to discourage people and get an end to it,” she said.
A survey conducted by the United Nations Population Funds, UNFPA, in 2015 showed that the practice was high in the South-West in spite of the geo-political zone’s high literacy and awareness rate.
The report said Osun State still ranked highest in the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation practice in Nigeria with over 76.3 per cent, followed by Ekiti which had 71.2, Oyo, 69.7; Ebonyi, 55.6; Imo, 48.8; and Lagos, 44.8 per cent.
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