From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) Nigeria Chapter has began to develop a scorecard that will track, review and appraise performance along the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) sector by government and institutions.
This was disclosed at the just concluded intergenerational dialogue on Sexual & Gender-Based Violence and Youth-Led Change Management as part of her Advocacy for Accelerated Action on Violence Against Women and Girls (3As-VAWG) Project in Nigeria.
The 3As-VAWG Project feeds into the wider purpose of the AWLN Nigeria Chapter’s 2020-2021 workplan which is to ensure more commitment by national and state actors in addressing violence against women and girls in Nigeria especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing attendees at the Dialogue which was convened as a hybrid physical and virtual interaction, Chairperson, Steering Committee of AWLN Nigeria, Funmi Para-Mallam, said the 3As-VAWG project seeks to develop a scorecard that will track, review and appraise performance along the SGBV sector by relevant stakeholders.
She said: “We are also ensuring that we bring younger women leaders to the forefront. It is no longer a secret that the contemporary environment is moving towards the emergence of younger leaders, particularly younger females. We recognize that it is time for older women to pass on the baton. AWLN Nigeria stands for creating and facilitating platforms such as this where there can be interface and dialogue between younger and older women on critical issues that affect us all. ENDSARS has taught us that the younger ones will no longer be pushed to the background.”
In her remarks, Country Representative of UN Women, Nigeria, Comfort Lamptey said the issues of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria have been on an increase particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She commended the leadership of the AWLN Nigeria for being vocal on issues and working hard to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on women and girls in Nigeria.
She added that “young women have certainly demonstrated throughout the pandemic that they do constitute an essential asset that we need to continue to invest in”, assuring that UN Women will continue to support and strengthen the emphasis on intergenerational conversations across the different thematic areas going forward.
First Lady of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, and her counterpart in Kebbi State, Dr. Zainab Bagudu, both advisors to the AWLN Nigeria Chapter, pledged their continued support to the Network to ensure its advocacy targets were realized. They extended the Chapter’s Condolences to the former First Lady of Kwara State and Founder, Wellbeing Foundation, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, also an Advisor to the AWLN Nigeria, on the loss of her brother, Mr. Adedapo Ojora.
There was an intergenerational panel discussion with panelists sharing their practical insight on the state of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria. AWLN Nigeria Secretary and ED, Borno Women Development Initiative lamented the exploitation and abuse of young girls in exchange of food and services available in the northern region of the country. She called on government and development partners to ensure budgeting cycles captured the needs of women and girls to reduce the risks they are exposed to which has been worsened by the pandemic.
Dorothy Njemanze of Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, emphasized the urgent need for frontline workers and responders to SGBV to be considered essential workers by institutions.
Ekaette Umoh, President of the National Association of People Living With Disability stated that SGBV responses, including COVID19 processes were largely insensitive to the needs of people living with disability, particularly women and girls. She called for behavioural change by service providers and related agencies. Chichi Ogbonnaya, Program Lead at the Women At Risk Foundation (WARIF) stressed on the need for CSOs and NGOs to access more rural communities, including use of local languages in advocacy messaging to deepen awareness on SGBV. In her intervention, Ndi Kato, ED of Dinidari Foundation, said inclusion should go beyond tokenist representation of marginalized groups to include access to thought leadership on wider sectors beyond disability issues, while Gender Specialist and ED of Equity Advocates, Ene Ede called on Nigerians not to relent in holding the leadership accountable by asking questions. Lamenting the inefficacy of the Sex Offenders Register launched in 2019, she added that data mining and data sharing were key to addressing SGBV concerns.
Other Speakers at the Dialogue include the Country Director of Pathfinder International, Dr. Amina Dorayi and Deputy Chairperson of AWLN Nigeria, Prof. Joy Ezeilo.
In her comments on what should constitute priorities for 2021, Dr. Dorayi emphasized the need for coordinated funding, better collaboration and concerted effort on prevention with primary focus on the need to deepen community involvement, manage information dissemination better, and deepen male engagement.
On her part, Ezeilo echoed the need to prioritize funding through gender-budgeting to accelerate actionable steps without which there will be no progress in addressing identified issues.
“Women and girls face disproportionate cases of violence. We are happy that we are beginning to maximize our resources through an inclusive process that will require the voice, energy and creativity of our youth for true change to occur” She said.
The Advocacy for Accelerated Action on Violence Against Women and Girls (3As-VAWG) Project in Nigeria is supported by UN Women Nigeria and seeks to engender discussion and engagements that will focus on assessing the policy, legal and programmatic commitments, and accountability towards ending violence against women and girls in Nigeria especially during COVID-19 as well as amplify the voices of young people in addressing SGBV in Nigeria as it relates to Prevention, Cost of Care and Funding Response.