"I am a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM). In my community, Abakaliki, FGM is a common practice. Young girls and women are brainwashed into accepting it as our culture. I first learned about it when I was in sixth grade. I asked my mother to explain what it was about. I asked whether I was cut since I can't remember how much it hurt, the implications to my health, the psychological effect of knowing that an essential part of me was brutally chopped off, and the other harmful effects," Uzodinma explained.
"Upon further inquiry, my mom said that I was cut out of ignorance; on their own part, she and my father realised it was wrong to have cut me," Uzodinmma continued, her expression betraying her self-assured manner. As a result, my other siblings were not cut, “no girl or woman deserves to be cut; it simply destroys our spirit."
"My NGO, Tomorrow is Girl Initiative, was founded in a bid to advocate for an end to FGM practice, and it was in my quest for deeper understanding that I became emotionally invested in the cause. Growing up, I was deeply troubled by the fact that no woman deserves to be cut, knowing the dangers involved," she explained.
Every year, millions of girls and women around the world are at risk of undergoing FGM, with Nigeria contributing to 15% of the total population, globally. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a harmful practice that specifically alters or damages the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons. Although the practices that uphold female genital mutilation (FGM) differ from one culture to another, the operation is typically performed between the ages of infancy and adulthood, and it is well-documented that it has health, social, economic, emotional, and sexual complications.
From what I observed, the system-transformative strategy that called for our collaboration with boys men, and women, traditional rulers and priests, was quite effective. Therefore, I propose that we employ that strategy more frequently.
In a similar tone, 51-year-old Mrs. Josephine Ezaka, from Amudo, in the Ezza South local government area of Ebonyi State, said she knew about FGM as a child. “It was my grandmother who took me to where I was cut. It was very painful. After the cutting, they use hot water to wash the cut part. As you can imagine, it's very painful. I was like six years old then. I didn't know the implications of the FGM.”.
“Since I got married, I realised that I don't have the urge for sex, as other women used to tell me how sweet it is. My husband has even complained to some people." Josephine Said.
Through joint support from UNICEF, UNFPA, and the government, FGM is no longer practiced in Amudo. Josephine acknowledged the significant role played by UNICEF and UNFPA interventions, coupled with high enlightenment facilitated by the involvement of the church and traditional rulers.
Expressing her commitment, Josephine affirmed, "I did not subject any of my children to FGM. We are actively combating the practice, actively seeking those rumored to use Vaseline powder for cutting. The proven dangers of FGM emphasize the urgency of preventing daughters from undergoing it, as evidenced by numerous cases of women dying during childbirth due to FGM."
“There's a popular story of a woman, though late, who had no opening but a little opening for her to urinate just because of a dangerous vaginal cut in the name of FGM. She died without having a child." Josephine said it sadly.
By Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, UNICEF