The campaign against female genital mutilation, otherwise known as female circumcision, received a boost following the unanimous public declaration of abandonment of the barbaric and harmful practice by the 28 traditional rulers of Ngor Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State, on 21st November 2018.
The epoch making event held at the Local Government Area Headquarters, Umuneke, was made possible by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) with support from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).
In his address at the occasion, the Chairman of Council of traditional rulers in Ngor Okpala, HRH Eze Geofrry Okoro(Oko 1 of Upe), explained that following the massive campaign and sensitization by NOA and UNICEF in the area, the traditional rulers in consideration of the dangers inherent in the practice and in consultation with their people resolved to abandon the age long practice.
“To the great people of Ngor Okpala, today we celebrate our liberation from fear and superstition, Ndi eze and elders of the 28 autonomous communities in Ngor Okpala raised their voices and instrument of traditional authority to say goodbye to female genital mutilation,” he said while commending the effort of development partners for bringing the campaign to the area .
The Director of National Orientation Agency Imo State, Mr. Vitus Ekeocha in his remark gave a breakdown of the efforts, activities and programs by the agency in pushing this course. He said: “Since this year NOA with support from UNICEF has facilitated community dialogue session, held consensus building meeting, advocacy meeting with the traditional rulers, August meeting with women home and abroad in Ngor Okpala. Today the readiness of the community towards public declaration is the outcome of that efforts. The name, Ngor Okpala, has gone down in history as the first local government area in Imo State to publicly declare abandonment of female genital mutilation.”
Honourable Commissioner of Gender and Social Development, Mrs. Edna Okorie, who represented the first Lady of the state, Her Excellency Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha, condemned in strong terms the practice of female genital mutilation, while commending the people of Ngor Okpala for taking the bull by the horn in denouncing the practice, thereby setting the pace for other local government areas in the state to follow suit.
Mrs Okorie pledged government continued intensification of the fight against female genital mutilation, and government support to communities who are sincerely willing to put a stop to the practice.
High point of the event which was attended by government officials, religious leaders, students and traditional rulers with their subjects were the public declaration of abandonment of female genital mutilation by the ezes in company of their people and the unveiling of the marble plaque to commemorate the event. The plaque reads: “At this ground: The Council Of Traditional Rulers in Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area backed by Ndi Nze and the Presidents-General of the 28 communities in Ngor Okpala LGA, publicly declared abandonment of all forms of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Ngor-Okpala on Wednesday, 21st November 2018…”
Dr. Ibrahim Konta, Head of UNICEF Nigeria who spoke at the event disclosed that Imo state ranks high among states in the country with prevalence of female genital mutilation. He however lauded the local government area for the giant stride, while calling on law enforcement agencies to be on guard in bringing to book all violators of female genital mutilation prohibition law.
It should be recalled that the Imo state House of Assembly on March 6, 2017 passed a bill prohibiting the obnoxious practice in the state. The law proscribe 14 years imprisonment, fine of N250,000 or both to offenders.
Dignitaries who witnessed the event are the local government area chairman, Evangelist Chinwe Obinna, commissioner for gender and social development, Mrs Edna Okorie and High Chief Ume Njoku.
By: Theodore Opara