Ebonyi: Despite UNICEF intervention, FGM still practiced secretly in Izzi – Investigation

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The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still being done secretly in Izzi land despite the interventions of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

This was revealed during a UNICEF sponsored investigation by reporters on the compliance of zero tolerance on FGM in Izzi local government area of Ebonyi state.

Mr. Peter Iteshi, an Assistant Social Mobiliser with the Izzi LGA at the weekend told Blueprint that the Ishiuke’s in a public declaration on denouncement of FGM 2 years ago at Amagu, the ancestral home of the Izzi clan advised that the practice of FGM should not be done physically on the woman but through a spoken word.

Mr. Iteshi and some other stakeholders who were interviewed regretted that despite the interventions, sensitizations, and declarations of abandonment done in the local government some people went on to secretly indulge in this practice.

Iteshi who is also a ward development committee chairman said, “We have decided to continue advocating for the eradication of FGM especially as the Ishiuke have made an open declaration against the practice.  The practice of FGM is a big issue in Izzi land because of the customary rites attached to it, ordinarily, it should have been reduced before now but you know one thing with fate it is always very strong and not so easy to stop. Because of the belief that if one is not cut she will not be seen as a woman but as a girl and certain rights would be denied her, for this reasons the Ishiukes while publicly denouncing this practice advised that the practice should be done with mere spoken words, and not inflicting injury on the woman’s body, that instead of using a razor or any sharp object to cut the woman or girl they will say we assume cutting and that will take the position of cutting.

“Irrespective of the declarations and advice by the Ishiuke, the people are still secretly performing the practice, some still engage in cutting and some do the massaging type.

“The problem is that they have decided to hide it and if you even see a survivor the person will hide the truth because of that we have not been able to apprehend anybody for this crime.

“I have rather trained some people secretly to be whistleblowers, to always put me on alert should anybody be performing this act that I will investigate further and bring such persons to face the law.

“I have facilitated my traditional ruler Eze Linus Nwizi to the level that he also made a redeclaration against FGM adding to the one done at the ancestral home of Izzi land and a fine of 10 thousand naira would be paid by offenders of this crime, both by the parent of the girl cut and the person doing the cut.

“The challenge in all this is that most of the people I trained as volunteers to carry out door-to-door sensitization and to bring information to me, I remunerate them on a weekly and sometimes monthly basis and I don’t have enough to sustain them. So I need help, in every political ward, I have 3 to 5 people doing this job.”

Collaborating with Iteshi, Mrs. Benedict Nwibo, from Opefia village, Mgbalukwu community, a Woman leader said, “the truth is that if you get the report that circumcision is happening somewhere when you get there for investigation the people will hide the truth from you. The last time Mr. Nwibo came to me for an investigation on a report he got, when we got there the people denied it, but all we know is that the practice of FGM has drastically reduced in Izzi land. We have gone village to village, to social gatherings, hospitals, and so on to sensitize people against FGM.”

The Secretary to Eze T. Elom, the traditional ruler of Ndieze community, Chief Silas Nkwuda, explained that the traditional ruler of the Ishiukes in the Izzi clan joined hands and did a public denouncement of FGM after being made to understand the negative effect of the practice on women.

“The program against girl child mutilation has gone far in Izzi land, with Mr. Iteshi and his colleagues the communities in Izzi have heard the message, we have had a general discussion where they explained the disadvantages of girl child mutilation to us, we are aware of its danger and we are doing all our best to see that it is not practiced anywhere in our community. The practice is an ancient practice that we were made to understand that it brings so many problems to the women of childbearing age. We have declared openly that whoever we discover that the daughter went for circumcision we will deal with the person and take away his landed property from him.

“We made this open declaration abandoning the practice of FGM two years ago, and should there be anyone caught indulging in this harmful practice, we will not only tamper with his land but we will take such person to the government to face the law. This government does not take it lightly with offenders that’s why they came up with the VAPP law and we made sure we sensitize our people on that,” he said.

“Our team has been spying around the villages for perpetrators but none has been caught”.

The Youth leader of Izzi LGA, Stephen Njoku, on his part said, “FGM was being practiced here before in Izzi land but now since we started this sensitization program by UNICEF and other agencies from the government the practice has reduced drastically to the extent that I have not seen it again, but even if it is practiced it is done secretly because the people have been made to know the danger of FGM and the punishment that awaits any perpetrator.”

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