By Magnus Effiong
The menace of violence against women and girls (VAWG) could end or reduced significantly if governments at both the federal and state levels could have the political will to regard it as a top priority, gender experts, under the aegis of Coalition for the Promotion of Gender Justice, have said.
They made this assertion at the weekend in Calabar during a one-day training/engagement with stakeholders and Journalists, powered by two non-governmental organisations, Saferworld and Peace & Freedom.
In his remarks, the head of the Basic Rights Counsel Initiatives (BRCI), Barr James Ibor, said besides Nigeria’s constitution, there exist in the country the Child Right Act, and Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act and other related laws, and therefore wondered why government was finding it difficult to tackle headlong the problem of violence against women and girls.
Speaking on the theme ‘existing laws and policies and their contribution to ending violence against women and girls,’ Ibor believed that “if it could be on the front burner with our political leaders mustering the will to end it, violence against women and girls would be the thing of the past.”
He added, “Our political leaders should rise in defense of this most vulnerable group of individuals and take action in line with our laws. Bring it up in our parliaments, discuss and significantly make provisions for it in the annual budget estimates. Culprits should be punished accordingly to serve as a deterrent.”
The lawyer-cum activist also frowned at cultural/societal and even religious practices and inhibitions which, he said, tend to portray the world as men’s, thereby rendering the women-fold as second class citizens who must not overstep certain man-made boundaries.
Mrs Ndodeye Obongha, Head of Programmes, Girls Power Initiative (GPI), who spoke on the roles of media in the campaign to end violence against women and girls, tasked journalists to take responsibility by not only creating awareness but also getting involved in prevention, response as well as providing helplines to survivors.
“We know that the media is a critical stakeholder. A lot of information in the public domain is from the media. We expect them to step up their roles. The training is to ensure the media itself do not churn out reports that could cause more problems especially to survivors of gender based violence,” she stated.
Obonga further charged the media, civil society organisations (CSOs) to partner to ensure the success of the fight against sexual and all forms of gender based violence, adding ‘Instead of merely repeating what has been done, let us channel our resources, energies and creativity to filling the gap in areas yet untouched.”