November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and from tomorrow, the United Nations “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence” will begin and end on December 10, 2020.
To commemorate the occasion, below is President Muhammadu Buhari’s message highlighting measures that governments at various levels are putting in place to curb sexual and gender-based violence which has increased due to the lockdown measures introduced to check the COVID-19 pandemic.
Background: The subject of Sexual and Gender Based violence in all its forms has been recurrent especially considering the alarming statistics of violence against vulnerable persons recorded in Nigeria, particularly women and girls. I am indeed aware of the unfortunate situation from records and reports of incidences in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic and attendant responses by our government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly lock-down measures similarly adopted by other countries worldwide, further exacerbated the already dire situation of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria. Nigeria has long been facing a gender-based violence crisis, with 30% of women and girls aged 15-49 having experienced sexual abuse.
The International Day of Eliminating Violence against Women therefore, presents a unique opportunity to highlight actions taken by the government to address violence against women and girls.
To address these developments, governments at Federal and State levels have made the following responses:
1. Establishment of a National Tool for Gender-based Violence Data Management
Our Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) under the Joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative and other critical stakeholders developed the National Tool for Gender-based Violence Data Management in Nigeria. The tool is expected to serve as a consolidated database to record and assess the occurrence of GBV during the COVID-19 period and beyond; it is also to document all forms of violence against women and girls in Nigeria using a single, harmonised data collection tool. Over time, the tool will undergo revisions to accommodate wider reporting indices beyond the COVID-19 period.
2. Committee on eradication of sexual, gender-based violence
On 23 July 2020, we inaugurated an inter-ministerial committee on eradication of sexual and gender-based violence in response to worsening cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the country arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures that were imposed to curb the spread of the virus. As part of its mandate, the Committee is expected to conduct a review of all the existing laws and policy instruments touching on offences of rape, child defilement and gender-based violence and develop for adoption, national prevention of sexual abuse/violence strategy for the period of 2021- 2025, “that identifies and encapsulates measures to enhance response to rape and gender-based violence, set new targets for prevention, intervention and treatment.”
3. Development of Gender-Based Policy Guidelines in Emergency Response
Clear indications were made of an absence of gender-focused responses during emergencies such as the COVID-19. This gap has been addressed through the development of Policy Guidelines for Emergency Response, facilitated under the Joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative by the UN Women and Implementing Partners in the Spotlight States particularly the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Sokoto and Ebonyi States. These policies when implemented, ensure that vulnerable persons, particularly women and children are not left behind in emergencies such as COVID-19.
4. Improving the economic status of women
To mitigate the socio-economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has prioritized vulnerable groups, including women, in the provision of medical and social assistance. Our administration remains committed to eradicating poverty and enhancing growth and development for women and girls. In the last year, over one million Nigerians have been enrolled into National Social Register of poor and vulnerable households to enable them to access needed social assistance. Under the National Social Investment Programme, we have commenced cash transfers and distribution of food items to individuals and families across all States in Nigeria as palliatives to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our administration remains committed to eradicating poverty and enhancing growth and development for women and girls. In order to address gender-based poverty, we have initiated programmes such as: Tradermoni, Marketmoni and Farmersmoni under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme.
5. Fundamental Human Rights and Freedom
Our administration believes that the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms are critical to the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. It is for this reason that I urge the international community to support the mandate and operations of the Human Rights Council in its quest to strengthen institutions in relation to gender equality and empowerment, as well as the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. We have developed additional strategies to improve the quality of life for women and girls, redoubling our efforts to improve access to productive resources for women and girls as well as continue to ensure the protection of fundamental rights. We are very mindful of the necessity to empower women and girls for the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the African Union Agenda 2063; as well as the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action.
I wish you successful commemoration and Days of Activism.
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