As part of efforts to reduce the 2023 UNICEF‘s estimate of 200 million girls being subjected to female genital mutilation in some countries, including Nigeria, the Lagos State Ministry of Women9 Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA) has organized a sensitization programme against harmful traditional practices for traders, especially men, in Agege area of the State.

The Permanent Secretary of WAPA, Mrs. Oluyemi Kalesanwo, speaking at the event held recently at the Agege Market, called for an all-evolving change whilst describing female genital mutilation as a violation of human rights that inflicts physical and psychological pain on girls and women.

She stated that marrying the girl-child off too early denies her of the right to education which is the bedrock of greatness upon which a society is founded, adding that such actions will also restrict her from contributing towards societal growth.

Her words, “Early Child/Forced Marriages and Female Genital Mutilation are harbingers of progress that restrict the victims’ labour market participation and aggravate global efforts to eliminate poverty. That is why this advocacy is part of the synergy to curb the menace of FGM and Early Child/Forced Marriage. This is our main purpose here to sensitize everyone, particularly men, about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation and Early Child/Forced Marriages”.

While soliciting collaborative efforts to eradicate the practice, the Permanent Secretary implored everyone to speak out when FGM and Early Child/Forced Marriage is happening around them, just as she emphasized the need for all to embrace positive parenting.

“Girls who get married before the ages of 18-year old face health challenges and are more likely to experience a wide range of mood, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders in adulthood, when compared to those who get married at later ages”, she noted.

Mrs. Kalesanwo averred that the State Government is committed to supporting the girl-child, vulnerable women and indigents, with Skill Acquisition and empowerment training programmes for financial sustainability.

She enjoined participants to develop a positive mindset towards their female children and report to the appropriate authorities by calling the Emergency Toll Free Line – 767 or the Domestic Violence Unit of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation – 09168346437, wherever they see such harmful practices.

In her address, the Gender and Reproductive Health Analyst representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Esther Oluwatosin Somefun stated that the Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit of the Agency partnered with WAPA to ensure a world where every pregnancy is wanted and childbirth is considered a privilege. Hence, she advised parents not to give out their girl-child below the age of 18 years into early marriages due to associated ills affecting womanhood following the adoption of this trend.

On her part, the Iyaloja of Agege Main Market, Mrs. Esther Durowoade urged the State Government to continuously sensitise the residents on the dangers associated with female genital mutilation as well as with early child marriages.

She stated that these practices are harmful traditions and that all hands must be on deck to eradicate the scourge.

Also speaking, Alhaji Musbau Afuwape, the Baba Oloja of Agege Main Market called for more parental support to children to promote inner growth and strength of the girls as they grow up. The highlight of the event was the distribution of branded souvenirs such as sexual protection kits and hijabs to participants at the event