From Fred Itua, Abuja
An anti-rape movement, Men Against Rape (MAR) has held “A Night of Poetry & Speeches” in memory of all victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), including the 13 year old Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje, Uwa Omozuwa, Barakat Bello and Azeezat Somuyiwa.
While Ochanya 13 years old died in October 2018 as a result of complications arising from her being serially raped and sodomised by a father and son, Uwa Omozuwa, 22 years old was raped and killed on 27th of May, 2020 by a gang of men inside a church in Benin, Azeezat Somoyiwa, 29 was seven months pregnant when she was killed on June 5, 2020 and Barakat Bello, 19 years old was gang raped and killed on 31st of May 2020.
At a well attended function with attendees dressed in black, Men Against Rape (MAR), National Orientation Agency (NOA) and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) decried the rising rate of GBV, which they described as a pandemic.
In his opening statement, the Convener of Men Against Rape and Executive Director of Make A Difference Initiative, Lemmy Ughegbe said “A Night of Poetry & Speeches” is part of the movement’s activities in line with sixteen days of activism to end Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
He said by this event “we seek to raise our collective voice to call for a more concerted national strategy to curb the pandemic of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in our country and renew our resolve and strategy to demand justice for all victims.
“Except perpetrators are brought to book and face the full weight of the law, which should be a lifetime in jail, there will be no deterrent. We therefore must continue to follow through on these cases to ensure that justice is not only done, but seen to be done if we are to create safe spaces for children, women and other vulnerable classes of people,”Ughegbe added.
He said: “the blood of Ochanya, Uwa, Barakat, Azeezat and the numerous unreported and reported victims of SGBV are begging for justice and therefore Men Against Rape will NOT rest until their murderous rapists are put away from roaming our streets.”
They described Gender Based Violence as “a pandemic with more devastating effect than corona virus with survivors left to leave with the psychosocial consequences though out their life time
He noted that “men are the custodians of the patriarchal order and therefore determined resistors of change to the said order and norm, which sexualises the woman and girls and encourages men and boys to abuse them at will with no deference to their rights and choices. This must stop. And this is why we established this movement of men to be change agents keen to dismantle this patriarchal order and mindset.”
In his own remark, Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) represented by Dr. Davidson Aminu, renewed the organisation’s commitment to working to curb GBV in the country, noting that the psychosocial consequences of the menace on the victims and society were too grave.
“This is a novel mode of bringing attention to the issues of GBV using poetry and it is a great idea. For us at N.O.A, we are happy to associate and partner with your organisation to battle this pandemic to its knees”, he added.
In her key note speech, Director General of National Agency for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) represented by Head of Gender Department, Mrs Tolu Odugbesan, she advocated the breaking of certain patriarchal norms that encourage GBV and renewed her agency determination not to leave any stone unturn in efforts to rid the society of the GBV pandemic.
In her own remark, Director in- charge of COVID-19 response at the Ministry of Health and President, FCT chapter of FGGC Gboko Old Students Association, Dr. Ngozi Azodoh said GBV especially sexual violence is closer home to us than we could ever imagine, we vigilance and action from everyone anywhere and anytime we come across it.”
“We must continue to pull together just like today to keep the memories of all victims of GBV alive and renew our commitment to bring their murderous rapists to justice”, Dr Azodoh stated.
Speaking also, Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja Council, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbeche decried the rising cases of GBV and called for a united front of all stakeholders to tackle it.
He commended Men Against Rape for the event while pledging support for them.
“The NUJ is proud to associate with this organisation and we will be happy to work with you more to end GBV.”
Earlier, Secretary of NUJ, Ochiaka Ugwu called on everyone to support, care for and help reintegrate them back into the society.
“Do not stigmatise victims. They need your support and care. Empathize with them, help them heal and reintegrate them into the society without stigma”, Mr. Ugwu urged.
Poems against GBV were performed by Barrister Jude Ifesem, 2nd runner up at the Sheroes poetry competition organised by UNESCO, Barrister Emmanuel Ayoola, Poet Kolade , Ben Ubiri (Ben200) and Glory Uzoamaka who read a poem written by Joy Ofere, a – 17 year old budding poet.