By Our Reporter
With cases of violence against women and children reportedly increasing every day in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) have, under a Spotlight Initiative programme, brainstormed on ways of ensuring women and children have violence-free life.
Speaking in Ibadan during a 2-day media dialogue on bringing to an end violence against women and children, organized by the international bodies, Monday, UNICEF Nigeria Child Protection Specialist, Dr Sunbo Odebode, explained that “Spotlight Initiative is a global partnership between the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.”
Odebode disclosed that due to rising sexual and gender based violence incidents, 20,000 new cases of obstetric fistula occur every year in the country, and described violence against women and girls as silent killer. She noted further that 43 percent of girls in Nigeria were married before they could reach 18 years of age, and that 17 percent of them were sexually abused before they could turn 15.
The Child Protection Specialist enumerated such cases of sexual and gender based violence to include rape, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forced/child marriage, sexual assault/harassment, physical violence/battery amongst others, and that the anomaly could be reversed with proper implementation of legislations, synergy and strengthening of institutions, change of unfavorable but acceptable social norms, sensitization and availability of data.
Also speaking, Executive Director of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BRCI), Barr James Ibor, said gender based violence could be eradicated with social re-orientation, availability of mechanism for safeguarding the dignity of women and girls, eradication of male child preference/male dominance mentality, eradication of commodization of women and girls and rejection of culture of silence.
Ibor charged the media, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Non Governmental Organisations, (NGOs) to create more awareness on effects of sexual and gender based violence (GBV) on the life of girl children and women generally, and advised that apart from victims themselves speaking out, such cases should be reported to the Police for immediate action.
“Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa with more than 23 million girls and women who were married as children, most of them from poor and rural communities. Over one in four girls and women (27 per cent) aged 15-49 years have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Nigeria has the third highest absolute number of women and girls (19.9 million) who have undergone FGM/C worldwide,” he explained.
On her part, another child protection specialist, Shola Okpodu, believed that social context of violence against women and girls was based on the traditional patriarchal structure which, she submitted, portrays women as being subordinate to and owned by men.
“The future well-being of women and young girls in Nigeria, particularly the most vulnerable must be supported to enable them live a life free from violence and harmful practices by addressing the linkages between sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices,” Okpodu stated.