In Nigeria, Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains prevalent with an estimated 19.9 million survivors, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF said.
UNICEF made this known in a statement on Sunday to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
The global organisation cautioned that FGM was on the rise among young Nigerian girls aged 0-14.
From 16.9% in 2013, rates rose to 19.2% in 2018, a “worrying trend” for Nigeria that accounts for the third highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide, UNICEF said.
National prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria aged 15-49 dropped from 25% in 2013 to 20% in 2018, NDHS figures showed.
Globally, 68 million girls were estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation between 2015 and 2030.
An additional 2 million cases of FGM may occur over the next decade due to continued closure of schools caused by the pandemic and disruption of programmes that help protect girls from the harmful practice.
“Millions of girls are being robbed of their childhoods, health, education, and aspirations every day by harmful practices such as FGM,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“The practice of FGM not only has no health benefits – it is deeply harmful to girls and women, both physically and psychologically. It is a practice that has no place in our society today and must be ended, as many Nigerian communities have already pledged to do,” said Peter Hawkins.
UNICEF said it is initiating a community-led movement in Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun and Oyo where FGM is highly prevalent to eliminate it.
“The Movement for Good” will reach 5 million adolescent girls and boys, women – including especially pregnant and lactating mothers – men, grandparents, and traditional, community and religious leaders, legislators, justice sector actors, and state officials through an online pledge to ‘say no’ to FGM, UNICEF said.
“The movement will also mobilise affected communities for concrete action at the household level to protect girls at risk of FGM. It will challenge misconceptions on FGM and the discriminatory reasons it is practiced and break the silence around the practice together with communities,” UNICEF added.
Pope Francis on Sunday said FGM and trafficking of women for prostitution are humiliating affronts to women’s dignity.
“This practice, which is unfortunately common in various parts of the world, humiliates the dignity of a woman and gravely attacks her physical integrity,” Francis said while speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing and address.
“This is a deep wound inflicted by the shameful search for gain without any respect for the human person,” he said ahead of the Catholic Church’s International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking this Tuesday.
“There are so many girls that we see on the streets that are not free. They are slaves of traffickers who send them to work and beat them if they don’t return with money. This happens today, in our cities,” he said.
Calling both FGM and trafficking of persons, “wounds of humanity,” Francis urged leaders “to act decisively to stop both the exploitation as well as humiliating practices that afflict above all women and girls”.