By Timidi Digha
Ondo State is located in south-west geopolitical zone of Nigeria. It originally included what is now Ekiti State, which has 77% prevalence of FGM, one of the highest in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, Ondo State is rarely captured in FGM data and interventions, despite the fact that a state that was carved out of her has high prevalence of FGM which the people didn't just learn after they were carved out.
This post will try to shed light on the daily occurrences of FGM in Ondo State.
Scenario 1: Christmas period is known to be a cutting period worldwide especially with the high volume of movement that occurs at that period.
On the 26 December 2016, I got some tags on twitter about a baby about to be cut. While I was trying to make sense of it all, Bimbo Aladejare, one of The Girl Generation End FGM ambassadors in Nigeria, called me and gave full details of what was happening and she wanted me to look into it especially as it's in my state of residence.
It turns out that a baby girl was going to be cut the next day. Her father brought them from Benue State to spend the holidays just because of this purpose. The mother overheard her husband and his mother planning it and she called out for help.
I called and spoke with her and her mother-in-law, another group spoke to the husband. I had to go to Idanre very early the next morning, but I couldn't see the lady, though luckily her daughter wasn't included in those who were to be cut.
Upon engagement of indigenes and residents of the town, FGM is rampant, very rampant.
One lady who pleaded anonymity said the only girl they can vouch not being cut is the one in the womb.
They practice mostly clitoridectonomy with some families opting for infiltration.
Scenario 2: many women have said they have been approached by community health extension workers (CHEWs) and some health workers to see them in camera for FGM of their daughters.
The CHEWs at Mother and Child Hospital Akure and State Specialist hospital were mentioned mostly by the women spoken to. This shows that medicalisation of FGM occurs in the state which contributes to reduction of exact data of FGM.
Scenario 3: A parent in my daughter's school who I was to become close to advised me to take my daughter for FGM because she is too hyper. She claimed it would calm her down.
Turns out she had taken her two daughters for it, she was cut as a child and even directs other parents to the cutter.
This has made AGCDSI in conjunction with Divine Family Academy - our kids school include FGM as one of the important items for discussion during PTA meetings. The cutter stays in my vicinity.
Going forward, community engagement is ongoing in Idanre, the community in scenario 1 and in the course of the week of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, we will be visiting the traditional leader, chiefs and cutters.
We are still at the entry phase of the engagement.
The cutter in scenario three is willing to work with us provided her identity is not disclosed. We want to be certain that she will drop her knives before we start work with her. She has refused to accept that FGM has health and SRHR effects on the girls and women. She insists that Omo o kin t'owo onikola ku (a child does not die in the hands of the cutter)
Ondo State just like Ekiti State boasts of a lot of intellectuals and enlightened people, but FGM thrives therein which shows that FGM is no respecter of religion, class or location and there is SO much to be done.
I urge government and agencies working on FGM in Nigeria to flash their searchlight this way too.