The United Nations Population Fund on Saturday called for equitable access to education, healthcare and employment opportunities for girls and women to accelerate the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria.
Ulla Mueller, UNFPA Nigeria Resident Representative, made the call in a statement to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM marked every February 6.
The day is set aside for advocacy globally to end the practice of FGM, also known as female circumcision, which is the partial or total removal of female external genitalia due to non-medical reasons.
This year’s commemoration, has the theme: “No time for global inaction: unite, fund and act to end Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.”
Mueller said that FGM represented one of the manifestations of gross gender inequalities depriving a girl, a woman of her basic fundamental human right to bodily integrity.
She said that FGM also created and sustained power imbalances that limited access to opportunities and resources and prevent girls and women from realising their rights and full potential.
She said: “We must empower the women and girls to oppose the continuation of the practice, we must closely collaborate with men and boys, our traditional and religious leaders as advocates.
“We must also ensure equitable access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities to accelerate the elimination of FGM, contribute to equitable social and economic development, and ensure that no girl or woman is left behind.”
Mueller lamented that two million additional cases of female genital mutilation were likely to occur over the next decade due to COVID-19.
She said: “COVID-19 is threatening to reverse the Global progress made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5, gender equality, and specifically, target 5.3, which is the elimination of FGM.
“According to UNESCO, at least 11 million girls are at high risk of never returning to school as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This affects future generations of girls, as less-educated women are more likely to support the continuation of female genital mutilation.
“Nigeria alone contributed 10 per cent of FGM global burden and with Nigeria’s growing population, progress would need to be at least 10 times faster to meet the global target of elimination by 2030.”
Mueller, however, called for collaboration among a wide group of stakeholders such as policymakers, civil society from small grass-roots organisations, women’s rights groups and media to end FGM.
“Together, let us also amplify the powerful and persuasive voices of survivors who are increasingly leading transformative change in their communities,” she said.