By Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi
In recent times, there has been an astronomical increase in cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria.
The COVID19 pandemic and the lockdowns that ensued exacerbated an already problematic situation, as rates of violations increased exponentially.
The continued rise in GBV cases has made it imperative to scale up multi-dimensional approaches and strategies in combating all forms of GBV. Several reasons account for the pervasive nature of Gender Based Violence (GBV) across Nigeria and they include:
- Underlying cultural norms, attitudes and beliefs that normalize Physical, Sexual, Psychological and Economic Violence
- A thriving culture of impunity, anchored on the shaming and intimidation of survivors and lack of access to justice
- Lack of a unified legal framework and court system to deal with GBV
- Non-existent or poorly equipped facilities to respond to GBV cases, including lack of Sexual Assault Referral Centers and shelters to care for survivors
- Limited human resources to provide social support systems
- Economic disparities that increase vulnerability of women and children
Nigerian Governors Wives against Gender Based Violence (NGWA-GBV) is a group of 25 Governors’ wives from all zones in the country, working together to mitigate all forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV). Since we began to work together on GBV issues in June 2020, we have achieved the following:
- Advocacy with the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) to support calls for the declaration of a State of Emergency against Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Nigeria. On June 10th 2020 the NGF declared a State of Emergency against GBV in Nigeria. As a result of this declaration, all State Governors are now focused on urgent actions in their States to address GBV. This includes ensuring that relevant legislation is passed, and that there is implementation of existing laws and policies.
- Development of an Action Plan for State First Ladies, which we are presenting to the public today. Each First Lady is adapting this Action Plan to suit her context and environment.
- The Action Plan covers strategies such as Access to Justice, Support for Survivors, Education and Awareness, Engaging Communities, Peer Learning and Partnerships with various stakeholders.
- Scaling up advocacy efforts for the immediate domestication of the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) 2015 and the Child Rights Act. Since June 2020, six additional States have domesticated the VAPP Act – Delta, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Kwara, Abia and Niger. There are several other States where their legislation is at advanced stages and we hope to have a few more passed before the end of 2020.
- Involvement in State GBV implementing and coordinating mechanisms
- Support for the establishment of Sexual Assault Referral Centers (SARCs) as well as shelters for women and their children.
- Economic empowerment opportunities for women in grassroots communities to reduce their vulnerability.
- Ongoing advocacy for girl-child education and empowerment
- Participation in many online meetings and discussions over the past five months to share information on our work, to learn and to strengthen partnerships.
- Production of a compendium that provides some insights into the different ways in which Governors’ wives are leading change in their States, through their foundations, by working with statutory agencies and partnerships with women’s rights organisations and civil society groups.
- Partnerships with corporate bodies and private foundations to support our initiatives
As Wives of Governors, we know we are capable of achieving a lot of progress in our respective States. However, through working in solidarity as a collective, our platforms and voices can be leveraged into something more powerful to achieve meaningful change. This Policy Dialogue has been organised to provide a platform for a range of stakeholders to reflect on sub-national interventions, particularly as we commemorate the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. The theme for 2020 is Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent and Collect. We need to ensure adequate funding of all interventions, respond effectively to the needs of survivors, intensify strategies for prevention of GBV and collect relevant data for analysis and planning. We all need to leverage whatever platforms and competencies we have to make this happen. We therefore hope that this policy dialogue will achieve the following:
- Provide an opportunity for State Governors to discuss what has happened in their States since the declaration of a State of Emergency on GBV on June 10th 2020
- Highlight ways in which Governor’s Wives are supporting the fight against GBV
- Listen to GBV survivors and service providers as they discuss care and protection and access to justice
- Strengthen partnerships, networking and information sharing as part of the Global 16 Days Against Activism campaign.
In order to tackle a problem as complex as GBV, we require the active engagement of all elements of society. As mothers, wives and leaders in our own right, we are ready and willing to play our part. We thank all our speakers and resource persons for being willing to share their experiences and knowledge with us. We are grateful to HE Dr Aisha Buhari, First Lady of Nigeria for being a dependable ally in the quest for a better Nigeria for all men and women. We acknowledge the hard work of Dame Pauline Tallen, Minister for Women Affairs for making GBV advocacy a priority. We thank the Nigerian Governors Forum and all the Governors for their support and encouragement. We are grateful to the NGF, The Ford Foundation and the UN/EU Spotlight Initiative for making this meeting possible. Together, we can tackle the menace of GBV and make our communities safer for women and girls.
Thank you for coming and I hope you enjoy your time with us.
OPENING REMARKS OF HE ERELU BISI FAYEMI, CHAIR NIGERIAN GOVERNORS WIVES AGAINST GENDER BASED VIOLENCE, AT THE GBV POLICY DIALOGUE WITH GOVERNORS AND FIRST LADIES DECEMBER 2ND 2020