The Nafana Literacy Programme, a civil society organisation in the Tain District in the Brong Ahafo Region, has called on the district assembly to work in conjunction with human rights organisations and other civil society groups to ensure the total eradication of negative cultural practices in the area.
At a forum held at Nsawkaw, the Tain district capital, the acting Co-ordinator for Nafana Literacy Programme, Mr James Anane, said female genital mutilation (FGM) and some aspects of widowhood rites that had lost their relevance and importance were two cruel cultural practices that were common in most of the 23 communities in the Banda Traditional Area.
He described the practices as degrading and indicated that they had persisted in the area for ages, making it difficult to change them.
He said FGM and widowhood rites constituted a violation of women’s rights and were detrimental to the well-being of womanhood and therefore, urged the assembly and other law enforcement agencies to enforce existing regulations to curb these practices.
Mr Anane pointed out that aspects of widowhood rites that prohibited widows from working for one year on the death of their husbands, resulted in high poverty levels among some women in the district, adding that “it is unreasonable to prevent a widow who has children from working for one whole year, in the name of culture”.
He said apart from the fact that FGM affected the health of victims, it also left them with permanent, scars and emotional trauma that lowered their self-esteem.
According to Mr Anane, with assistance from IBIS, an international non-governmental organisation, a series of seminars and workshops had been organised over the past years to sensitise people in the traditional area to abolish such cultural practices.
He added that a major step towards the fight against widowhood rites was reached in 2006, when chiefs in the Banda Traditional Area resolved to do away with various cruel aspects associated with the practice.
He said during the period, a bull was demanded by the chiefs to pacify the gods to accept the abolition of inhuman cultural practices and pointed out that although most of the communities had complied with the ban, others were still glued to the practice.
The District Co-ordinator for Girl Child Education, Madam Comfort Manu, said FGM was a contributory factor to the poor performance, among pupils, especially girls, in basic schools.
She said apart from the health implications associated with FGM, girls who went through the practice had to stay away from school for not less than 40 days for the wound to heal while their mates continued with their studies.