The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs with the support of some international development partners recently held a workshop on how to end gender based violence against women and girls in Nigeria. DEBORAH OCHENI reports
O ver the years, violence against women and girls has remained one of the most prevalent human rights violation in the world.
The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
In Nigeria, violence against women is evident in many forms, including domestic, verbal, and physical abuse, rape and sexual assault, early and forced marriages, incest, female genital cutting, acid baths and outright killing.
Women continue to suffer all forms of degradation and deprivation in public and private spaces.
According to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2018, 28 per cent of women and 21% of men agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife under one or more specified circumstances (physical, sexual, and emotional abuse).
Among women aged 15-49, 31 per cent have experienced physical violence and nine per cent have experienced sexual violence; while six per cent of women have experienced physical violence during pregnancy.
Available statistics also shows that more that about 55 per cent of women who have experienced physical or sexual violence have never sought help to stop the violence; only 32 per cent have sought help, approximately the same 31 per cent as in 2013.
Among children, six out of every 10 experience some form of violence, one in four girls and 10 per cent of boys have been victims of sexual violence. All these issues were the focus of a recent dialogue organised by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs with funding from the EU-UN Spot light Initiative/UNFPA and support from the Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI) in Abuja.
The dialogue had as its theme: “Ending all forms of Gender-Based Violence and Harmful Practices against Women and Girls in Nigeria by 2030.” Nigeria is signatory to several international laws and treaties focused on protecting persons, especially women and children from violence while promoting their rights.
Stakeholders at the dialogue observed that in spite of the enactment of some relevant laws at the federal level, they are yet to be effective at the State and Local Government Area ( LGA) levels, as many states in Nigeria are yet to codify these laws.
However, with the consistency in advocacy and engagement of the media for continuous informed coverage of issues of gender-based violence, a couple of states have passed one or both laws, with other states at various stages of reviews.
In response to the enormous multidimensional impact of gender-based violence, violence against women and girls has gained increased visibility over the recent years by several donors and partners. It was learnt that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), one of the five UN agencies imple Spotmenting the Spotlight Initiative has forged partnerships with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs as the lead ministry, as well as other relevant ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) at federal and state levels.
One of the outcomes of this partnership is the development of a national communication strategy document and advocacy briefs to provide a framework for all Social Behavior Change (SBC) interventions for eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in Nigeria. The national communication strategy document employs a systematic process on Ending Gender Based Violence and Harmful Practices.
The programmes are designed based on existing data following a systematic process of analysing the problem to define barriers and motivators to change and design a comprehensive set of tailored interventions that promote the desired behaviours. “The communication strategy recognises that existing gender inequalities play a major role in fuelling many forms of gender based violence and harmful practices globally and in Nigeria in particular.
“Working towards sustainable progress, this strategy has incorporated creative ways to challenge the status quo while empowering women and girls to find their voice impleand act without fear of stigma or reprisal.
“Ultimately, this communication strategy when deployed by government, development partners, NGOs and CBOs, will serve as a road map, charting the course for the systematic elimination of all forms of gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls in Nigeria,” it says.
A panel of discussants, which included Abia Udeme Nsikak, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Chinyere Eyoh of the Sexual Offences Awareness and Response (SOAR), Initiative and Adenike Ayodele, Principal Officer, Centre for Communication and Social and Social Impact, were on hand to dissect the issues.
The panelists, who agreed that the issue of strategic communication on gender-based violence was critical to eliminating the trend, said Nigerians can access the national sex offender register which has recorded only 14 success out of the over 3000 cases the government has in its data bank in all stages of prosecution.
They enjoined participants at the workshop to avoid already held but erroneous beliefs and approach the challenge of GBV across the country with a new strategy of knowledge and understanding of the issues based on scientific measures adopted to eliminate the trend by 2030.