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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Understanding Female Genital Mutilation

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I remember back in Nigeria, I heard and read bits about Female Genital Mutilation otherwise known as FGM. At the time, I must admit I didn't really understand or should I say pay too much attention to what it actually involves other than it was a procedure that was  performed on young girls to prevent them from becoming promiscuous later in life.

Only recently it came up in conversation and my wife did explain to me that it basically involves cutting out some external parts of the female genital organ. I was also made to understand there are alternative methods used instead of cutting. It involves dipping a piece of cloth into hot water which is then applied at intervals spanning days or even weeks to serve similar purpose to FGM but without having to cut anything. I know this is a taboo subject for some people but we need to talk about these issues to understand them better.

I've done a few bit of research since that time which seem to corroborate what she rightly told me. The World Health Organisation's website also provides some very useful information covering all aspects of the practice.

What worries me is that the intention of those who carry out the procedure is to limit sexual pleasure and in doing so aim to achieve their purpose of making their victims less likely to become promiscuous. I haven't read or come across any research that links female genitalia to sexual promiscuity. Even if their was any, individuals have a choice of how they choose to live their sexual lives but that is a topic for another day.

What really struck me and in fact spurred me into blogging about this issue is that just today (22/04/12), reports in the UK media seem to suggest there may well be over 100,000 victims of this practice in the UK. The practice is thought to be rife among African and some Asian communities.

Despite legislation and a possible 14 year jail term for anyone engaged or arrange to engage in the practice, it seems, it still hasn't deterred the practice in African communities in particular. If this practice is rife in our communities in the diaspora especially those of us living in the west whom you would expect should know better then you can imagine the scale of the problem in Nigeria.

More needs to be done to deal with the problem. Legislation is certainly a step in the right direction but from what I gather there are no Federal laws that directly prohibits the practice. Even though some states have laws to tackle FGM, a National approach would be more effective.

But laws alone are not enough, FGM like most social issues requires plenty of enlightenment and education to challenge long held beliefs and attitudes which in my view is at the heart of practices of this nature. This will require lots of persuasion, convincing and a paradigm shift in deeply rooted culture and traditions. It shouldn't be treated as a cultural issue anymore but as a public health matter.

There are no health benefits for subjecting young girls to undergo this procedure and as such more should be done to put an end to it. We can certainly do our bit through talking and educating our relatives, friends, supporting NGOs and raising awareness. It's not too late to start now otherwise we'll be storing up huge social and psychological problems for future generations.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Potential Pitfalls of Social Media

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Whenever the term social media is used, what usually springs to mind is Facebook, twitter and Youtube. In reality, all forms of Web based applications are an integral part of social media which undoubtedly has changed the landscape of how we communicate.

I still remember towards the turn of the new millenium when the only way I could contact my sister in London was through a NITEL phonebooth. Mobile phones and other forms of instant communication where few and far between. Then came yahoo messenger, msn and fast forward to a decade later, we have witnessed an explosion of different platforms that facilitates easy communication. The benefits that have followed as a result are enormous and there are many more technologies of this kind that I'm sure will follow suit.

As social media continues to grow and expand with its attendant benefits, our lives and rules of social engagement will continually be shaped by how we use them. I'm a big fan of modern technology and social media certainly falls into that category.

However, the use of pseudo names on social media platforms seems to give some people a false idea that what they type behind their computers or mobile devices in the comfort of their home is anonymous. A visit to a popular Nigerian web forum (which I'll prefer not to mention) seems to reinforce this argument. The use of vitriol and abusive words seems to be the norm and the sad part of it is that it does appear to be acceptable. Most debates seem to quickly turn into a tribal war for no apparent reason.

What people who use abusive and inappropriate language on social media platforms fail to understand is that whatever you put on the web remains forever. Deleting something from a website or web application doesn't necessarily gets rid of it from the web. Websites and social media contents are stored on servers and likely to remain long after you may have forgotten about them or think you've deleted them. We cannot predict where we'll be or what we'll do in say 10 or 20 years from now and you never know in what ways things you've put out on social media platforms may haunt you later in life.

Sometimes we may come across a topic or opinion we don't necessarily agree with, my top tip is not to respond to such issues when emotions are running high. Chances are that you're more likely to write something that you may rue later - try and do so when you're in a better frame of mind.

Recently a UK university student was jailed for aiming racists abuse on twitter at a footballer (Fabrice Muamba) who collapsed during a football match. There have been similar cases of this nature in recent times. What it shows is that what you say on social media is far from being anonymous. I know some people may say they are in Nigeria and it will be difficult to get them but believe me modern tracking technologies can make it very easy in the event your ISP is unable to provide information about you.

The next time you go for a job interview, chances are an Internet search about you may have been carried out. In the US, some employers have gone a step further. I read recently about the practice by some employers asking job applicants their Facebook passwords as part of their job application process. Whilst most social media platforms have security settings to protect our privacy, including our dear blogger, in reality they are all vulnerable to hackers and people with a different agenda. Only few days ago, an anonymous group made the UK Home Office website inaccessible, reinforcing how vulnerable the web can be.

As we blog and enjoy the thrills of using social media platforms, please be measured in what you say. Whatever content you want to share online, photos, video etc, be sure it's something you won't look back later and regret. Whilst I would like to dismiss any perceived perception of scaremongering, it would benefit us to know that each time we use the web, we leave an audit trail of who we are and what we've been up to but let it be for the right reasons.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Easter Blessings

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I hope all is well in blogsville, I can’t believe I haven’t visited my blog or any other blog for that matter for a whole month!

Thanks to all those who left goodwill comments/messages in my last post when I announced I was taking a short break. High-five to Ginger, for your recent email checking up on me. 

I must admit that being away from blogging for a few weeks did made me realise how time consuming it can be joggling it with work, family, etc. I wonder if I would be able to cope if I was also on Facebook and twitter. I don’t know how people who manage to keep up with all these social media do it – they must have better time management skills than I do. J
But I do enjoy writing and reading other peoples’ blogs/writings, so I won’t be quitting any time soon but perhaps will be more sensible about it without biting more than I can chew.

I’m sure you’re all enjoying the Easer holiday and what it symbolises. Anyway I shall be doing blog rounds to catch up with what I must have missed these past weeks. I'll hopefully do a proper blog post in the coming days.

Happy Easter and remain blessed.


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