By Gabriel Olawale
HACEY Health Initiative, a development organization focused on improving the health and productivity of the vulnerable in Nigeria has kick-started a series of events to celebrate the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in a bid to influence behavior change and promote positive gender-based relationships.
The scheduled events began with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Wednesday, November 25. It is expected to run through the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on November 29, World AIDS Day on December 1, and the finale on December 10 which marks the International Human Rights Day.
While speaking at the Forum on Media Action against Sexual Violence through a virtual presentation; The US Consul General to Nigeria, Claire Pierangelo disclosed the pleasure of the US Mission in Nigeria to support the newly launched ENDRAPE culture website www.endrapeculture.africa, a brainchild of Hacey Health Initiative which is also a beneficiary of the US government’s alumni Engagement Innovation Fund grant.
In identifying the need for the website, she said, “Spotlighting this important policy priority is a cornerstone of the United State’s commitment to advancing human rights, promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls. The 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence began at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rangers University. It began to highlight violence against women and girls as a global human rights violation.”
“The scale of Gender-Based Violence is tremendous, the scope is vast and the consequences for individuals, families, communities, and countries are devastating. Gender-Based Violence significantly hinders the ability of all individuals to fully participate in and contribute to society and threaten the health of families and communities economically, politically, and socially”, she added.
The Consul General praised the long-standing relationship between the United States and the Nigerian Government towards addressing issues of global concern. She further expressed the joy of the U. S. Government at investing in their exchange program alumni’s networks and their many notable community-based projects. She prayed that the website should spur society to positive behavioral change towards victims of GBV.
In her words, “according to UNICEF, 1 in 4 girls and 1 out of 10 boys in Nigeria have been victims of sexual violence and much of it remains unreported. These websites will serve as an invaluable tool to the media and public by providing resources to increase awareness of sexual violence, by promoting messages that encourage survivors to report cases, and by increasing awareness about services for survivors.”
“I hope the ENDRAPE website serves as a touchstone in our efforts to call attention to this scourge, to inspire and support survivors and promote the joint efforts of the United States and Nigerian government in ending sexual and gender-based violence”, she concluded.
The 16 Days of Activism; supported by the US Consulate and Access Bank which commenced on Wednesday and slated to end on December 10, 2020, is an international campaign aimed at challenging violence against women and girls which will bring together professionals in the development field, advocates of human rights, gender equality, media practitioners, private sector leaders, students of secondary and tertiary institutions and the public in a series of events designed to influence behavior change and advocate for an end to rape culture in Nigeria. The programs will support the efforts of the Nigerian Government to eliminate gender-based violence.
With over 13 years of experience in implementing value-driven and sustainable projects in healthcare and economic empowerment, HACEY seeks to promote a better quality of life for Africans where no one is left behind.
The events will feature discussions on the various thematic areas of the 16 Days of Activism program including accelerating the impact of GBV and HIV Interventions Slated to hold on December 1, 2020. The discussions will be led by experts from UNFPA, PEPFAR, Women Radio, and other subject specialists in HIV/AIDS and Gender-Based Violence.
Also occurring simultaneously during the 16 Days of Activism is the Exhibition themed End Rape Culture. The End Rape Culture is a photo, video, and Art exhibition aimed at inspiring attendees to disengage from the culture of rape and embrace the culture of consent.
The exhibition opens throughout the 16 days of activism and is open to the public however registration is compulsory to manage crowd movement and in compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
Nigeria, like most African countries, is faced with a Gender-Based Violence crisis that is rooted in its patriarchal society accompanied by harmful cultural, social, and traditional norms. Being exhibited in acts of sexual violence, physical violence, emotional and psychological violence, child marriage, and other forms, Gender-Based Violence is violence directed at an individual based on gender identity and is harmful to the psychosocial development and life perception of its victims. In Lagos State, the State-owned Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team reports management of over 100 cases per month of various forms of Gender-Based Violence. The number spiked three-fold in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown with various cases of Gender-Based Violence including intimate partner violence.
In a bid to mitigate the spread and adverse effects of GBV, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence will shed light on the harms of GBV and proffers better agencies to manage gender-based relationships without the occurrence of violence.
According to Rhoda Robinson, the Executive Director at HACEY Health Initiative, “The year 2020 has stretched our work in reducing the incidence of GBV in Nigeria due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The harmful practice of Gender-Based Violence has skyrocketed due to the lockdown and the loss of jobs in many homes. Nevertheless, we will not relent.”
“Therefore, this year, we are leveraging on the power of Media, Arts, and Technology to reach more people and to influence a positive change in our society. We hope to inspire a consent culture through our work”.