UK envoy calls for women inclusion in decision making
By Alice Ekpang – Abuja
An international organization, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, Wednesday, joined the commemoration of 16 Days of Activism to end Gender-Based Violence, GBV, and officially launched the Women-Led Integrated Protection Action Against Gender-Based Violence (Wipe-GBV) Project.
The Country Director, AAN, Ene Obi, at the launch of the project lamented that over the past few months, the country has experienced a rapid increase in insecurity which has resulted in displacement, disrupted relationships, and weakened infrastructure.
Ene further decried the situation as it has deepened dimensions of violence giving rise to the breakdown of community and state protection mechanisms and services, thus placing an additional burden for women and girls to bear.
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She said: “Currently, Nigeria is ranked the 3rd most terrorized country in the world and the most terrorized in Africa, worse than Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, and this should be of concern to everyone.
“Women and girls have continued to bear the effects and burdens of violence and conflict and COVID- 19 pandemic has further heightened incidences of violence on women and girls as it introduced new dimensions to violence.”
According to her, the pandemic has brought about a tremendous monthly increase of GBV cases to 149 per cent in 23 States including the North East.
“Between January and May 2020 only, 717 cases of rape were recorded by the Nigerian Police Force with most occurring during the COVID-19 lockdown. The pandemic brought with it a substantial rise in reported cases of gender-based violence with a monthly increase of 149 per cent in 23 States including the North East.
“It is for this reason that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) provided funding to ActionAid Nigeria for the implementation of interventions to protect the rights of women and girls from GBV exacerbated by conflicts and COVID-19 in Edo, Niger and Adamawa states of Nigeria”, she stated.
She also explained that the States selected were based on their high records of Gender-Based Violence and insecurity.
“ActionAid Nigeria will be working with women’s rights organizations and the National Human Rights Commission in these project states to provide critical protection intervention to women and girls who suffer violations”, she said.
Speaking also was the British High Commissioner to Nigeria Catriona Laing who said Gender-Based Violence cannot be tackled without also accessing the fundamental shift in women participation in politics, leadership, and in the security sector itself.
She said that the full representation of women in these areas would certainly show that the women are actually making a difference.
Laing added that with women and girls making 50 per cent of the population that they are sparingly inclusive in decision making in the country.
“As we all know women and girls make up 50 per cent of the population but they are so much fractionalized from decision making in Nigeria and that has to change.”
She urged Nigerian women to carry on with the energy displayed by the women folks during #Endsars protest into making their voice heard and having a general reform.
“I was really pleased to see the great women who stood up in the #Endsars protest, the feminist coloration played a really key role in this and we need to capitalized on that and ensure that that energy, that bravery, that momentum is directed to now into demanding reforms not just for the police, but security services more generally.
“As we look to 2023 we really see an opportunity for women to stand out and have their voice heard and hopeful standing out to represent as well.”
She commended the Nigerian Women’s Right Organizations for doing an excellent job in responding to exacerbated GBV cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID19 of course has been a dramatic setback and we have seen Gender-Based violence skyrocketing not just in Nigeria but also in the United Kingdom and all over the world. But the Women’s Right Organizations here in Nigeria have done an amazing job in responding to that and having referral centers available, counseling services, and so on.
“The people need all these practical support, legal advice, medical support but equally and importantly, they need psycho-social support and we need to be able to provide all these supports and then they need support to be able to rebuild their lives.
“I hate the word ‘victims’ these are survivors and we need to help people recognize that this was not your fault. So the other thing that we need is accountability for the perpetrators and that means police need to be equipped to investigate and bring people to account”, she stated.
Laing added that cultural norms, traditional and religious practices should not be an excuse for GBV and in the next few years people should be able to stand up to challenge these assumptions, and the traditional rulers especially the female traditional leaders will hopefully make a really big difference.
The Manager, Women’s Rights Programme ActionAid, Nkechi Ilochi-Omekedo said that the project would be providing financial and technical assistance to the Women’s Rights organization in the three selected states to be able to provide critical protection intervention to women and girls in the project state.
She added that the project Goal is contributing to the protection of women and girls in conflict situations that have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic through effective programming by women’s rights organizations.
She said: “The objective is to increase access to GBV survivors center intervention that arise from conflicts and COVID for women and girls and also a provision of livelihood to GBV survivors and mobilizing citizens and actions as well for reducing GBV through awareness creation.
“For the next four months we want to see that 75 survivals are evacuated from, the point of violence to a safe space, we also want to see that three hundred cases are responded to by our partners as well as the collaboration of National Human Right Commission, we also want to see that about 75 women and girls receive dignity kits and we also want to be reaching out to about 60,000 persons through our media engagement in this project.”
She called on stakeholders’ collaboration and support to the project to ensure that the project objectives are delivered within the short time frame.
Also speaking was the Traditional Ruler, Sarauniyan Zazzau of Suleja, Niger State Dr Ramatu Hassan, who said that the project will relieve the burden of GBV and many other issues affecting families in the community.
“We put a lot of importance on the family, and we recognize very much that the woman is the anchor of any family and by extension, therefore, women maintain the fabric of any community by ensuring its peace, and progress by maintaining the cradle that is necessary to have this in place.
“I am very happy that organizations like ActionAid are been assisted by the commonwealth in order that some of these issues would be tackled because the traditional council has been overburden by many of these issues, family feel closer to us than the government so many of the GBV issues are been referred to us so now that we are going to get a lot of help from the commonwealth there is going to be a lot of relief”, she added.
She also requested that the women’s rights group that would be engaged in the project should corporate and be maximally involved so that they would be possible solutions to many of the GBV cases.
Meanwhile, the Wife of Edo State Deputy Governor, Dr Maryan Shuabu, while declaring the project open said that it is time to start having more actions than words in the fight against GBV.
“In the fight against GBV I think it is time to start marching words with action, the women down there who are going through these pains really do not understand all these seminars all they want is for it to stop.
“A deprived woman socially or economically is potentially vulnerable to violence this therefore calls for a more proactive action at creating synergizes for funding to empower women to help end GBV against women”, she said.