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Organisation Advocates Better Sensitisation In Eradication Of FGM.

The need to increase sensitisation and advocacy against female circumcision, popularly referred to as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and unhygienic procedures in the act of drawing tribal marks by traditional attendants, was the focus of discussion at an interactive session that held in Ibadan on Wednesday.

The interactive session organised by the development unit of an organization known as Beth-Zion Ventures, was the first event to kickoff an advocacy programme targeted at parents especially those in the middle-income bracket.

The focus of the advocacy according to the organisation is to raise awareness on the risk of negative psychological consequences associated with the act of FGM and also to sensitise stakeholders on the need to train maternal health care professionals on how to treat and care for females who are suffering from problems that arose from FGM. The management of Beth-Zion stated that contrary to the belief that traditions like the drawing of tribal marks on faces of children and female circumcision are extinct, many parents still engage in the act behind closed doors.

In his welcome address at the interactive session, the Programme Officer of Beth-Zion, Akinwande Soji-Ojo, stated that 'many believe that civilisation has eroded some harmful cultural practices but I can tell you that though some practices are being eradicated, female genital mutilation is still in existence and does not happen only among illiterates.

'Our organisation has reports of such happening even among literate people. The issue of FGM is not dependent on the academic background or financial status but by traditional beliefs which allows even the educated to take bad decisions. We have discovered that there is a need for urgent government and societal interventions against the practice in terms of reorientation and massive sensitization to parents, even the educated ones.

'This is the focus of our advocacy. We want to take the sensitization beyond the villages and rural communities to the doorstep of the learned ones and also make them ambassadors in the fight against FGM. According to Beth-Zion, studies have revealed that in Nigeria, 40 million girls have undergone the knife of female circumcision and majority of the victims do not know the effects the practice may have on them or have a say in whether they want to undergo the procedure.

'There are some young girls that are at risk of the practice now and we are trying to ensure that that they do not fall victim of this barbaric act. We have reports of two girls from two middle-class families; Mariam Oluwapelumi and Tinuke Margaret (surnames withheld) that are in a vulnerable situation at present. While the family of Tinuke seems to understand what we have been telling them, Mariam's family are determined that she must go under the knife of the old women in their family house and get tribal marks.

'According to the father, this is not prohibited by law. He is insisting that even if they won't go ahead with the circumcision, they won't disobey their tradition on tribal marks for first children in the family. As it is, the safety of this girl is questionable because during the procedure, mothers are not allowed and there is the risk that with the mother not being present during the tribal mark inscription, they may go ahead with the FGM.

'Cases like this are why we are embarking on this advocacy; there is a need to stop this act. We need people to join us to spread the gospel. Many are already on the campaign but there is a need to intensify efforts because this is our reality because the culture is one of the most difficult things to change, this is why we need more people to join the train and spread this gospel. There are many health hazards associated with this and it is also an inhuman act which must be stopped,' Beth-Zion stated.

Though the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law is in existence, stakeholders argue that it has done little to stop FGM or harmful widowhood practices as most cases remain unreported because law enforcement agents do not do take the implementation serious.

At the end of the interactive session, participants concluded that education is key because when everyone has the right information, people especially mothers will be empowered to take the right decisions especially as it concerns her children
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Date:Apr 24, 2019
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