By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA– THE United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, has asked Nigeria to support institutionalization and domestication of Gender-Based Violence Protocol in higher institutions.
The Director, UNESCO Regional Office, Abuja, Mr Dimitri Sanga, said this in Abuja, Monday, at the launch of the Gender Mainstreaming Training Manual for Higher Institutions in Nigeria, organized by the International Society of Media in Public Health, ISMPH.
The European Union-sponsored manual is aimed at eliminating sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices and also enhancing sexual and reproductive health rights in the nation’s higher institutions.
Sanga represented by Mr. Salifou Abdoulaye,Regional Advisor for Higher Education and ICT, UNESCO Regional Office, Abuja,at the event,said “UNESCO proposes for the production of this manual in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) format.
” By doing so, we will be able to disseminate the document widely within and across national frontiers,” it said.
According to him,”Taking into account our long-standing partnership with National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN),it would be good to involve NOUN in the production of the MOOCs, because this higher education institution has all the necessary facilities and expertise to design MOOCs and online courses.”
He said UNESCO wanted a Nigeria where women and girls were free from all forms of violence and harmful practices even as he regretted that over 70 percent of women in the country live below the poverty line, with maternal mortality ratios at 576 per 100,000.
According to him, of the estimated 3.2 million Nigerians living with HIV,55 percent were women.
“Enrollment of girls in school ranges from one-third to one-quarter of the classroom participants and out of the 10.5 million out-of-school children, two-thirds are girls,” he said, quoting the EU/UN, Spotlight Country Programme Document, 2018.
“At the higher education level, gender-based violence has drawn the attention of education policymakers,especially the worrisome issue of sexual harassment and sex for mark syndrome. Therefore, this manual could not have come at a better time than now.
” UNESCO along with UNDP, UN WOMEN,UNFPA and UNICEF are implementing the programme in Nigeria, promoting the UN Principles of Delivering as One and contributing to SDG 5 on Gender Equality. UNESCO is responsible for using its expertise in education to prevent GBV at Basic/Secondary and Tertiary levels of education and promoting Gender Equitable Norms and behaviours under the initiative, “he explained.
He explained that the International Society of Media in Public Health was engaged by UNESCO under the Spotlight Initiative to implement an activity titled:” Work with selected universities/tertiary institutions to institutionalize and domesticate Violence Against Women and Girls, VAWG prevention and response protocols and programmes. “
“The activity aligns with UNESCO’s vision of Gender Equality as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goal 5 and aims at addressing issues relating to gender violence at tertiary institutions of learning. This explains why UNESCO accepted the honour to endorse the forward to the manual,” he said.
Earlier,in her remarks, the Executive Director, International Society of Media in Public Health,Moji Makanjuola, explained that “the central purpose of the manual is to drive conversations on the issues of Gender Based Violence, SGBV and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights,SRHR in Nigerian tertiary institutions.”
While lamenting the increasing rate of violence against women and girls in the country, she charged the government and civil society organisations to rise up to the occasion “and create innovative responses which seek to change the mindset that made violence against women so prevalent in Nigeria.”
“One way we can collectively achieve this is by creating or engaging existing platforms to normalize conversations about the rights, welfare, and body autonomy of women,” she said.