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Dr Martha Ako Defends First Ph.D In Female Circumcision

Dr Tarh Martha Ako Mfortem has just defended a ground-breaking PhD thesis on “THE EJAGHAM PERCEPTION OF THE FEMALE CIRCUMCISION RITUAL(NKIM) AND PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT”, the first thesis focused on Ejagham, in the Department of Educational Psychology of the Faculty of Education, University of Buea. She concluded that the Nkim ritual influences personality development and was a strong expression of cultural values and beliefs but the need to revisit such a practice with changing times is paramount and effects on women’s health.

“To understand Nkim, one must understand the culture of the Ejagham people and the cultural rationale for the practice. What sustains Nkim was the respect for cultural norms, values and customs of the clan. Nkim was a generational myth to the people and this also helped to sustain it.” She told CNA

To her, values in terms of norms and practices, belief systems in a certain culture are relative to that culture and must be understood in its own culture and specific terms. All customs and institutions are valid when considered within a cultural context as no culture is superior to another.

“There are no better or worse cultures but only different ones. It is clear that Nkim as a cultural practice can only be better appraised if studies are carried out objectively paying attention to the people’s perception of the practice and the factors that sustain it in the Ejagham ethnic group.”

She continued that “It is necessary to revisit the cultural practice of Nkim because of human rights and the effects on health. Moderation is necessary since there is no scientific but emotional backing for the practice of Nkim.”

Her study situates human and personality development in an egocentric perspective. The study further situated social development in a cultural context by identifying the culture-specific markers of the stage of puberty and what this stage signifies. She elicited cultural understanding and perceptions of the practice in a specified practising cultural community and highlights reasons why the practice of female circumcision was prevalent among the practising communities.

“There is a need to understand the dynamics within the Ejagham local context and these include the role of Nkim in socialisation and its contribution to the Ejagham social ontogenetic development.” Dr Tarh Martha Ako said.

Her study highlights the fact that Nkim societies and rituals have evolved over time due to social pressure from human and female rights activists. It was also concluded that the Ejagham practice clitoridectomy(type 1a) and not excision (See WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA 1997 Joint Statement Classification of female circumcision). Type 1a refers to the removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only of the female genitalia. The circumcised Ejagham females described the process as pinching, pulling and cutting and not scraping off the clitoral hood.

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