COVID-19: UNFPA distributes survival kits to 1,100 FGM survivors in 44 Osun communities
By Ekene Agbor, Osogbo
The United Nations Population Funds in Nigeria (UNFPA) has revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has escalated cases of Female Genital Mutilation and other forms of gender based violence in the country.
To eradicate these menaces, UNFPA, through a Non-Governmental Organisation in Osun State, Value Female Network (VFN), has reached out to no fewer than 1,100 girls who are survivors of FGM and other GBV and distributed kits to them.
Addressing a press conference at the NGo’s office in Osogbo on Thursday, the Executive Director of VFN, Dr Costly Aderibigbe-Sába said the girls were reached out to through the COVID-19/FGM Girls’ Survival Project supported by the UNFPA.
Among the kits distributed are bags, sanitary pads, towels, soaps, hand sanitizer, bowls, nose masks among other leaflets bearing information about FGM to further enlighten the girls.
Aderibigbe-Sába said the girls are residents of rural and head to reach communities drawn from eleven local government areas and 44 Communities. Part of the girls are rape victims and teenagers with pregnancies.
She therefore called on the federal government of Nigeria and the federal ministry of health to show leadership and commitment to women and girls’ health by having a separate budget line to fund FGM prevention related programmes and provide health support to women suffering from complications of the deadly practice.
The Executive Director further asked the federal and state ministries of education to ensure integration of comprehensive sexuality education into school curriculums giving a new generation of young Nigerians to take a stand against Gender Based Violence.
She added that the VFN, through the support of UNFPA, organized FGM advocacy dialogues with 460 community leaders and all communities have decided to abandon FGM practice with some taking a step further by producing and erecting a permanent sign posts against FGM practice in the communities.
According to her, “the United Nations Population Funds in Nigeria (UNFPA) supported the distribution of 1,100 survival kits to 1,100 survivours of FGM and other forms of gender based violence across 44 communities and 11 LGAs in Osun State through the COVID-19/FGM Girls’ Survival Project. We therefore call on the federal government of Nigeria and the federal ministry of health to show leadership and commitment to women and girls’ health by having a separate budget line to fund FGM prevention related programmes and provide health support to women suffering from complications of FGM.
“The harmful effects of FGM and other forms of gender based violence must be recognized by everyone, we therefore call on the federal and state ministries of education to ensure integration of comprehensive sexuality education into School curriculums giving a new generation of young Nigerians to take a stand against Gender Based Violence.
“COVID-19 pandemic has escalated cases of Female Genital Mutilation and other forms of gender based violence, we therefore call on states yet to domesticate the VAPP law(A law that clearly defines penalty for various forms of gender based violence including FGM) to domesticate the law and ensure its implementation.
“Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also known as female genital cutting is a traditional harmful practice predominant in Nigeria where women and girls are strapped against the floor or flat surface and their external genital organs are butchered for non medical reasons. The world health organization defined FGM as the total or partial removal of external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs s for non-medical reasons.
“As an FGM survivour-led organization that engages in grass-root advocacy, we know that behind every statistics, it is true that women and girls suffer from complications of FGM. In the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, we reached 1,100 girls who are survivors of FGM and other forms of gender based violence across 44 communities in 11 LGAs in Osun State with the Girl Survival Kits (bags containing nose masks, hand sanitizer, sanitary tampons, antiseptic soaps and bowl.) We also organized FGM advocacy dialogue with 460 community leaders and all communities have decided to abandon FGM practice with some taking a step further by producing and erecting a permanent sign post against FGM practice in the communities.
“We also embarked on weekly live radio programmes in 3 different radio stations: Rave FM, OSBC Radio and Unique FM tagged Let’s talk FM, Abandon FGM and Didekun Didabe F’omobirin respectively. Furthermore, we provided safe shelter for two survivours of FGM who are also surviours of other gender based violence such as rape and physical violence and we are working with the state ministry of Justice to secure justice for them. Here are the communities that benefited from the Girls’ survival project:
“NGOs working to end FGM are working without ceasing because FGM is not just women issues, it is everyone’s issue. More than 200 million women alive today have undergone FGM and living with the complications. Aside the health effects of FGM, the harmful practice also puts a significant economic burden on health systems and national budgets, especially in countries with rates of FGM greater than 10% (In Nigeria, FGM prevalence is 20%). A new FGM cost calculator launched in February 2020 by the World Health Organization revealed that if FGM were abandoned now, the associated savings in health costs would be more than 60% by 2050. This data, available for 27 of the 30 countries where FGM is practiced. The total costs amount to USD 1.4 billion annually.
“In Osun State, prevalence of FGM has dropped from 76. 6% to 45.9% (NDHS 2013 and NDHS 2018) and also in some other states with high prevalence of FGM in Nigeria over the past 30 years, but not fast enough to keep up with population growth. If trends continue, the number of girls and women undergoing FGM will rise significantly in the next 15 years, in turn raising national health care costs of caring for them. The government must take up leadership role by putting up a separate FGM budget line in place for sustaining FGM prevention programmes, provision of safe space to women and girls fleeing from FGM among other forms of gender based violence , strengthen policies and laws that advance the rights of women and girls, provision of quality health care services to women and girls especially survivours of FGM and other harmful traditional practices.
“Value Female Network, a women-led nonprofit organization has implemented several projects that focuson promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls in Nigeria since 2016: Toll-free hot line (09023227272 & 0800FGMRESCUE) for reporting potential or actual cases of FGM, Provision of safe space for girls fleeing from FGM and Gender Based Violence, annual Adolescent Boot Camp, The Girls’ Survival Project, Project Boys promote Equality (an annual Programme where we gather boys to train them on how they can reach their potentials and also Promote Gender equality), Project Abandon FGM, Heroes Club in Secondary Schools, Mobile adolescent friendly centers, several media campaigns, policy drafts, amidst many others. We have reached more than 5 million people. We will continue to work with the people, support the government, local, national and international organizations until we have a world where women and girls are safe from all harms and able to maximize their full potentials because we believe that if girls and women are safe and healthy, then our world will develop rapidly. We are active on twitter- @valuefemalenet , Facebook- @valuefemalenetwork , Instagram- @valuefemalenetwork_”