Guest Blog by Ayomikun Emmanuel Olugbode.
Female Genital Mutilation/Circumcision (FGM/C) is the total or partial removal of the external female genitalia or any injury caused to the female genital organ for non medical reason. Estimates showed that about 140 million women and girls all over the world have either been circumcised or genitally cut. Annually, over three million girls are at risk of being circumcised or mutilated throughout the world. The practice of Female genital mutilation/ circumcision (FGM/C) is prominent in many African countries including Nigeria. The 2013 UNICEF report showed that the practice of FGM/C covers about 29 countries in Africa, that is FGM is practiced in over 50% of the African countries with about 98% prevalence rate in Somalia and about 27 million girls/women mutilated in Egypt. According to the 'FGM in Nigeria' report from 28 Too Many, the overall prevalence of women and girls within the age range of 15 and 49 years who have been circumcised in Nigeria is at 27%, making it over 20 million females in Nigeria who have been circumcised.
The need for us to act as a nation against this practice cannot be overemphasized when practices or beliefs that can hamper the education of our girls are being done. One of the purposes of education is to enable the girl child to realize her rights and participate like her counterparts in the society. This practice of FGM/C in Nigeria has hindered many girls from achieving this purpose.
In the African countries including Nigeria where FGM/C is practised, the majority of the girls who have undergone mutilation or circumcision are at a high academic disadvantage because they are usually excluded from acquiring basic education. Reports and baseline studies have shown that some African countries perform FGM/C as a form of ritual initiation that takes place over many days. During this period the girls are not permitted to go to school and after the circumcision, the girls may not be able to go to school as a result of the pain inflicted on them. Some of these girls suffer from infections, excessive bleeding, pain, stress and psychological trauma after circumcision that makes them less attentive in class and eventually hinders the girls from going to school. After circumcision, the girls are believed to be mature and are sometimes married out by their parents. This increases their inability to go to school.
Despite the effort of the government and non-governmental organizations to end FGM/C in Nigeria through advocacy visits and sensitization programmes at various communities across the country, the practice of FGM/C is still very much high in the country. This may not be unconnected with the high level of illiteracy in Nigeria. During a sensitization visit on End to FGM/C to a community in Kwara State, one of the participants said the advocacy to end FGM/C is only a Western idea to wipe away the African culture. The participant went further to say the Western nations want the level of promiscuity to increase in Africa. It took the effort of the sensitization team to convince the participant otherwise. Some individuals are of the belief that their religion is fully in support of FGM/C therefore, it will be difficult to change their minds through advocacy or sensitization.
FGM/C can be put to an end if the government and stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice in Nigeria can stand to develop a strategy to end the practice of FGM/C. The Ministry of Education should include FGM/C in the education curricula and teachers training programmes on FGM/C should be organized at regular interval. The Ministry of Health should as a matter of urgency begin an aggressive sensitization at various communities against FGM/C. The Ministry of Justice in partnership with the legislative arm of the government should enact laws against the practice of FGM/C. Beyond enacting the laws, implementation of the law should be given strict attention. The Ministry of Information is not left behind in the creation of awareness through newspapers, radio and television channels and other media outlets. FGM/C students Ambassadors or clubs should be created in all secondary schools in Nigeria. Government should also endeavor to fund or partner non-governmental organizations to end FGM/C in Nigeria. The sensitization on the need to end FGM/C should be primarily organized for traditional birth attendants, circumcisers, community leaders, religious leaders, students and parents.
Our society will be a better place only if we decide to make it better.
Let us join hands to end FGM/C in Nigeria.
Ayomikun Emmanuel Olugbode