ALL over the world, gender- based violence is one of the leading causes of death for women and girls. While some are reported either in the mass media or social networks, many are swept under the carpet.
It is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations within all societies. Gender-based violence is violence directed against a person because of his or her gender. Both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of the victims are women and girls.
On November 25, Nigeria joined other nations of the world to mark the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women And Girls. The day was preceded by 16 days of activism against the scourge.
The 16 days of activism is an annual international campaign that kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, which marks the International Day for Human Rights.
The activism started in 1991 by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute and continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. It is used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
In 2016, the initiators of the 16 days activism, the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership(CWGL), marked the silver jubilee anniversary and several activities have been carried out both at national and international levels by various organisations championing the safety, freedom and rights of women and girls.
The United Nations Secretary General, Anthony Guterres’s UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls by 2030 calls for global actions to increase awareness, galvanise advocacy efforts, share knowledge and innovations that will protect women and girls.
In 2019, the UNiTE campaign marked the 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, from 25 November to 10 December. The theme for this year’s UNiTE campaign, “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!” is apt in view of the increasing rate of violence against women and girls which includes rape, genital mutilation among many others.
Though the names, times and contexts may differ, women and girls universally experience violence in different forms such as rape or sexual violence, and abuse, in times of peace or war.
Rape is rooted in a complex set of patriarchal beliefs, power, and control that continue to create a social environment in which sexual violence is pervasive and normalised. Exact numbers of rape and sexual assaults are notoriously difficult to confirm due to frequent latitude and impunity for perpetrators, stigma towards survivors, and their subsequent silence.
In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists, through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc, and others, have put the spotlight on the issue of sexual violence and have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored anymore.
That describes why, under the umbrella of UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign that marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the UNiTE Campaign is calling on people from all walks of life to learn more and take a stand against the pervasive rape culture that surrounds us.
In Anambra State, the Nigeria Girl Guides, a front line organisation introduced in 1909 as a worldwide movement designed for girls and women only was not left out in the campaign.
The District Commissioner, Onitsha North Local Government, Anambra State, Ekene Njelita, explained that the 16 days of activism provided an opportunity for the Girl Guides and the Girl Scouts to rise to the challenges of defending the rights of women by raising the consciousness of people through street awareness, engaging the media as well as enrolling new members.
According to her, “we are advocating that women’s right should not be taken from them, that women should not be discriminated; that men should stop rape against women and girls; that violence against women should stop.
She outlined violence against women to include sexual harassment in work places, institutions and homes, domestic violence, rape, child abuse, among many others and urged any woman whose right is violated to report to the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) for necessary actions.
Contributing their quota, the Rivers State Chapter of the Nigeria Girl Guides embarked on advocacy campaign on the scourge and visited schools in Emohua Local Government Area, both primary and secondary schools. Addressing the pupils, the state commissioner of the organisation, Daba Harry explained that they were there to sensitise people on the need to key into the United Nation’s initiative.
“The UN uses the period between November 25 to December 10, to reawaken the world’s consciousness towards the elimination of violence in the society, especially those ones being done against women.
She stated that her organisation is saddled with the mission to stop violence, increase peace, break the silence as well as speak out for women and girl’s rights .You should not only avoid violent tendencies but also speak out against any attempt at violating your right especially sexual right.Always seek the intervention of FIDA in the case of violation of your right”
Recall that in May, 2015, the Federal Government of Nigeria signed into law the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) which came as a result of agitations for protection of persons against the different forms of violence with attendant punishment on offenders. This law does not only ensure that violators are brought to justice but also that the victims are adequately compensated, reintegrated into the society and given the necessary support and protection.