By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI- Two female students of Comprehensive Secondary School, Achacha 1 Community, Igbagu, in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, last week narrated their ordeal at the hands of village men and women who had been forcing them to be circumcised by traditional birth attendants in the area.
One of the victims who is 17 years old, identified as one Miss Mbam said that over 10 men and elderly women took her hostage to enable a traditional birth attendant circumcise her.
According to her, trouble started when her father informed her that she would be circumcised in a few days’ time, adding that not long after that, she was held hostage to enable an unnamed female health attendant circumcise her.
She spoke with South East Voice during an Advocacy visit to Achacha 1 Community in Izzi Local Government Area in the State when a team of United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF representatives led by Mrs. Ijeoma Onuoha Ogwe and Mrs. Adline Idike of the Adline Advocacy for the Dignity of the Destitute Foundation visited her community.
Miss Confidence returning from where she went to fetch water for domestic chores in her community
“On the faithful day, when I was asked to proceed for the circumcision and I objected, about 10 men and women took me hostage, held me bound and forcefully wanted to carry out the circumcision. Fortunately for me, I managed to wriggle out from them and immediately ran to the Pastor of our church who took me in and haboured me for the night.
“The next morning and still in a state of confusion, the Pastor came up with an idea that I should leave the village and travel to Cross River State and stay with my elder brother for the mean time.
“I left the village and went to stay with my elder brother until I was asked to return to the village following the quick intervention of UNICEF and other agencies that were reliably informed of the incident and they quickly intervened,” she said.
The student who is in JSS 1 insisted that any further attempt to force her to be circumcised would make her escape from her home again adding that before now she had been enlightened in her school and church on the dangers of female genital mutilation which prompted her action.
Similarly, another 18 year old student of Comprehensive Secondary School Igbagu, who was simply identified as Miss Nweke and also hail from Achacha 1 Community also narrated her own ordeal explaining that she had also run away from home, resisting the attempt to be forcefully circumcised.
According to her, she would have been mutilated at the age of 18 with all the pains and agonies associated with it, if not for the campaign by UNICEF and other agencies against the harmful practice.
She urged other young girls in the community to also resist the attempt as that would save the community from such harmful traditional practices.
The father of Miss Mbam and Village Head of Achara 1 Community, Bernard Mbam confirmed his daughters story, saying that he had informed her about the plan to have her circumcised when she turned 17 adding however, that to his greatest surprise, his daughter escaped from the community and ran to Cross River State from where she was mandated to return home following the intervention of UNICEF.
Chief Mbam said that with the enlightenment and advocacy visit of UNICEF to the community, he would henceforth lead the campaign against female genital mutilation and commended UNICEF and other non-governmental organisations for their efforts.
Meanwhile, there was a mild drama at the residence of Chief Mbam when three women including the grandmother of her daughter rained abuses on her and threatened to carry out the circumcision should the UNICEF team leave her behind. The situation forced the founder of Adline Advocacy for the Dignity of the Destitute to take the girl into protective custody.
In an interaction with South East Voice, the Founder of the advocacy group, Mrs. Idike said that she decided not to allow the girl stay back in the village as the women were prepared to take laws into their hands by mutilating the girl’s genitals and face the consequences.
She stated that with the girl out from the village, she had saved her from the agony of being mutilated, stressing that her group would intensify the campaign in Achacha 1 Community and other villages in Izzi where the practice was still prevalent.
The issue of circumcision has been an age long tradition in the community irrespective of the challenges and agony women faced during and after the mutilation of their private parts.