On 6th July, 2017, was another great for the Imo State Social Mobilization Technical Committee (SOMTEC) The meeting was held at the Imo State office of the National Orientation Agency, Imo State (NOA). It was chaired by Mr. Vitus Ekeocha, State Director of NOA. In his opening speech, Mr. Ekeocha briefed the house on the aim of SOMTEC and stated that the committee, which is supported by UNICEF, meets monthly to give feedback/reports on UNICEF supported activities in the State.
The meeting welcomed the Guest Lecturer for the month, Mrs. Ada Echebima, a health worker from Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area (LGA). She made a presentation on Open Defecation and Hand Washing. The aim of the lecture was to improve the knowledge of SOMTEC members, and enhance their delivery of both topics during their community level activities. In her lecture, she emphasized on the effect of Open Defecation on the health and security of girls and women, she added that open defecation is a major causes of the spread of diseases, including worm infestation.
Mr. Benjamin Mbakwem, UNICEF FGM/C Consultant, Imo/Ebonyi State reminded the committee of the three outcomes of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C abandonment (UNJP). These are Policy and Legislation, improved quality services and Community social norm change. He urged the SOMTEC members to mainstream FGM/C into their regular activities in order to help the UNJP achieve the three outcomes. He explained each outcome further.
- Policy and Legislation: Imo state has a Child Right Law (CRL 2004), which only protects Children from Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). However, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill which will protect people above 18 years is still being deliberated upon in the Imo State House of Assembly. He urged the SOMTEC members to assist in pushing for the passages of the Bill into Law.
- Improved Quality FGM/C-related services: he said we need to ensure that FGM/C survivors get adequate treatment. He added that registering all births and tracking the number of babies subjected to FGM/C is a means of tracking the progress of this Programme. He urged the Imo State Ministry of Health, Women affairs and Social Development to inform their health workers to use immunization services to track FGM/C cases in the state, since this was one of the best ways to determine the number of babies subjected to the practice each month.
- Community social norm change: he said that for this change to happen, communities need to publicly declare the abandonment of FGM/C. He reminded them that on 19th June 2017, the Izzi Clan of Ebonyi State became the first, and only, group to make this declaration in Nigeria. He urged the SOMTEC members to work harder to ensure that practicing communities in Imo State also make a similar stand.
In conclusion, he urged all SOMTEC members to put FGM/C in the fore front as they go into communities to sensitize people about the Key Household Practices.
Felxfame Enisire, UNICEF Social Media advocate on FGM/C abandonment also urged members to join the ongoing Frown Challenge that happens every Friday. In his explanation, Felxfame explained that the FROWN CHALLENGE is a photo campaign that gives members of the public an opportunity to join #endcuttinggirls campaign. He informed them that Imo State is expected to take 2000 frowns, but has only taken 64 frowns and posted 10 on #endcuttinggirls social media platforms. He then provided the steps for entering the Frown Challenge, below.
Step involved in participating in the frown Challenge:
- Get a cardboard paper and marker
- Write a short FGM/C message not more than 15 characters on the cardboard paper
- Take a photo frowning while holding the cardboard paper where you wrote the message
- Upload it on social media tagging @endcuttinggirls #endcuttinggirls # frownchallenge e.g. Instagram Facebook or Twitter with the help of your children.
The other participants were asked to submit their reports to the Secretary of SOMTEC, Mrs. Violet Igwe, Ministry of Information and Strategy.
The final business of the day was dividing the SOMTEC members into three teams to conduct advocacy visits to the selected communities in the 27 LGAs in Imo State.