By Innocent Onoh
The United Nations Representatives in Nigeria have called on other Partners to engage the men and boys to shift unequal power relations and challenge the attitudes and behaviours caused by gender inequality that leads to Female Genital Mutilation, FGM.
In a joint statement by UNFPA – UNICEF, Female genital mutilation, FGM, has continued to spread in Nigeria with an estimated 19.9 million survivors.
With this, according to the National Demographic and Health Survey 2018),
Nigeria becomes the third highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM in the world, with the risk of cutting highest in the first 5 years (86% of girls mutilated before age 5).
The statement says, Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, violates the rights of women and girls and limits their opportunities for the future in health, education and income. Rooted in gender inequality and power imbalances, it is an act of gender-based violence that harms girls’ bodies, dims their futures, and endangers their lives.
It is on record that, FGM prevalence in Nigeria is decreasing among women aged 15-49 according to data from the 2021 Multiple Indicator Survey (MICS) (18% to 15% 2016-17/2021) and the prevalence among girls aged 0-14 decreased from 25% to 8% during the same time period -MICS 2021, the decrease in prevalence among girls aged 0-14 has been described as a welcomed development, given that an estimated 86% of females aged 15-49 were subjected to FGM before the age of 5 (NDHS 2018). At the same time, 12 states had a prevalence higher than the national prevalence, ranging from 9% in Edo to 35% in Kwara and Kano.
The statement says, Men and boys remain key partners in addressing gender inequalities and harmful practices as everyone join hands to deliver the global promise of eliminating FGM by 2030’, said Ulla E. Mueller, UNFPA Resident Representative.
The UNFPA-UNICEF global Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM has supported over 3,000 initiatives within the last five years where men and boys actively advocate to bring an end to the practice. In Nigeria, since implementation began in 2018, UNFPA has supported the engagement of 807 men’s and boys’ networks to actively advocate to bring an end to the practice.
It has done this by providing opportunities and safe spaces for critical reflection on gender discrimination, power dynamics, positive masculinities and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education targeting men and boys, so they understand the consequences of FGM.
As a result of our collective efforts, we are witnessing significant opposition from men and boys to FGM. Today, men and boys are more receptive to change than before, and in some communities, they are more likely to disapprove of female genital mutilation and domestic violence than women and girls’, said Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative
It called for urgent need to target and turn shared goal of ending FGM into a reality.
There is the need to work together with all stakeholders – including men and boys – to protect the millions of girls and women at risk and consign this practice to history.
Integrate gender-transformative approaches and changing social norms into anti-FGM programmes.
Invest in national-level policies and legislation protecting the rights of girls and women, including the development of national action plans to end FGM – Statement says.
By Innocent Onoh