By CHINYERE Nnaemeka
A nongovernmental organization based in Oguta; Communal Care Centre with funding from ActionAid Nigeria has met with the Traditional Ruling Council, and elders in each of the 27 villages in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State to discuss the need to bring to an end the harmful cultural practices, especially widowhood practices in their communities.
The meeting which took place Wednesday at the traditional ruler’s Palace in Oguta community had the traditional ruler, HRH Eze Nnani Nzeribe Ezeyiche, the elders, the Communal Care Centre team and other stakeholders present.
Addressing the traditional ruler, the Executive Director of CCC, Colette Benette, who appreciated the ruler and the elders for honouring their invitation, pointed out that it is the vision of the organization for there to be a caring society free from all forms of stigmatization, discrimination, and has equal opportunity for vulnerable groups to excel.
She continued that for the aforementioned reason, they with support from ActionAid Nigeria are striving to end harmful cultural practices; Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, widowhood practices, other immoral acts such as raping of a child, youths taking hard drugs, domestic violence, among others.
To ensure that the quest is achieved, Benette disclosed that they have trained some group of stakeholders in the LGA as Violence Response Team, who are to go round the communities to identify those practices and sensitize the people on the need to end them
The response team she said, with the permission of the king are the ones who had organized the meeting with the ruling council.
Speaking earlier, Mr. Ikechukwu Ossai; the convener of the meeting, and Chairman of the Oguta Violence Against Women and Girls Response Team (Onye Egwu Anazo Nwaneya), with his Secretary, Mrs. Ifeoma Oputa dwelt on how children are being raped, and some women beaten to death or subjected to one form of torture or another by their husbands.
They talked about Female Genital Mutilation, FGM which they said have led to the death of many female folk, and left others to face one difficulty or the other, especially in their marriages.
They condemned in its totality the taking of hard drugs; Mkpuru Mmiri, among others by youths, saying that it has led many youths into either unconsciously taking their lives, misbehaving in the street or losing their sanity.
Looking at the issue of widowhood practices, they noted that it is not like they are saying that women should not mourn their husbands, but that they are pleading for them to be allowed to do it in a way they deem fit, and not by forcing them to shave their hair, drink the water washed from the corpse, sleep with the corpse, denied access to his property due to the fact that she did not give birth to a male child, among others.
Such practices they said, have done the society more harm than good, and so it is high time it is stopped, and rules stipulated with penalties for people who fails to abide by it.
They made the council understand that they have met with the oldest men and women in the LGA, who they said have agreed for such practices, especially widowhood practice to be stopped.
The Human Right Commission delegate, Lady Justina Ngozi Okeke who was also present in the meeting, extensively talked about the practices, noting that the VAPP, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, which she said has provisions to tackle those practices, have been endorsed by the State Governor.
Advising the council to endeavour to refrain from falling prey to the wrath of the Law, Okeke cited that for FGM, that the Child’s right Law 2004 provides for anyone that engages in such to go to jail for one year or pay a fine of N50,000,
Responding, the traditional ruler, welcomed the team and made them understand that they have already began abolishing some of those practices, citing,”We have nothing like people called Osu in our communities”.
For taking of hard drugs, he pointed out that the youth group in their communities are already looking into it and they will make sure to support them to succeed.
The royal accepted the request of the team, told them to make a communiqué to that effects and avail it to the traditional ruling council for endorsement.