By Hassan Zaggi
Planning and Monitoring Specialist with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Maureen Zubie Okolo, has advocated the involvement of traditional and community leaders in order end the ugly practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)in Nigeria.
She disclosed this while responding to questions from our Correspondent at a 2-day media dialogue on data driven reporting and dissemination of Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) with selected journalists, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, yesterday.
The dialogue was put together by UNICEF.
The expert noted that even though the FGM practice in on the decline nationally, the practice is still high in some states especially in the South East and South South.
“If you look at FGM nationally, it is actually decreasing because in the 2013 DHS, states like Ebonyi and Imo in the south east were very high, but they are coming down.
“This is because there has been a lot advocacy and a lot of the traditional rulers are now committing to signing to stop FGM in their domains.
“There is a lot of progress. Many of the wives of the governors in the south east, particular, Ebonyi and Imo have taken it as a project to continue the sensitization and the push for these traditional rulers to support FHM to be stopped in all communities,” she said.
While responding to a question on what need to be done to overcome the FGM in Nigeria, Mrs Zubie Okolo, said: “ It is about sensitization, get the people to stop it.
“How do we do that? We need to get the traditional and community leaders because they are the ones that are closer to the people.
“We have to do a lot of community engagement and advocacy at the state level. We need to implement policies that are related to violence against women.”
She, however, expressed shock on how Kaduna state stands high among states in the north with FGM despite the efforts of the Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai-led administration to improve the health indices of the state in recent times.
“We are looking at the pattern across the north and Kaduna state stood out as having the higher percentage than all the other states.
“Because FGM is mostly enshrine in culture, my question is what is exactly happening in Kaduna state for which FGM is persistently high? May be, it is part of the culture of the people.
“We need to interrogate the data. We need to involve investigative journalism to know exactly what is happening in the state that is causing the constant rise in FGM cases. Is it cultural or a belief system that promotes it?” she said.
According to the 2018 NDHS, among the 19 northern states, Kaduna leads with 49 per cent, followed by Kwara 46 percent while Jigawa, 34; Kano 22 and Yobe 14 per cent. Gombe and Adamawa both have less one per cent prevalent rates.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is any procedure that involves partial or total removal of the external genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other nontherapeutic reasons.