Reducing gender-based violence will aid development — Abia Govt, WACOL

Posted by News Express | 12 March 2021 | 238 times

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•Group photograph taken during the WACOL Consultative Meeting


The Abia State Government and the Women Aid Collective (WACOL), a non-governmental organization, have called on community leaders to assist in reducing gender-based violence in order to create a conducive environment for sustainable development in communities in the state.

The government and NGO made the call during a consultative meeting with gate keepers and duty bearers in Abia State on ensuring the elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and the Operationalization of the State of Emergency on Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) declared by the Governors Forum in their meeting in Umuahia.

Addressing the meeting, the Permanent Secretary of Women Affairs, Lady Onyinyechi Nwachukwu, said her Ministry was working towards reducing gender-based violence in the state and equally assists vulnerable groups.

The Permanent Secretary, represented by the Director of Women Affairs in Ministry, Mrs. Chinyere Nwogwugwu, maintained that reducing gender-based violence would boost productivity and culminate in development.    

“We believe that a place where there is no violence will have more productivity and that is the essence of calling the traditional rulers because they are the custodians of the communities, they are the people we call community gatekeepers, we mean the government in the communities.

“We want them to assist us in reducing gender-based violence in the state so that we can have sustainable development,” the Permanent Secretary said.

In her remarks, the Executive Director of WACOL, Prof Joy Ezeilo, represented by a Senior Programme Officer, Uzoma Uzoeshi, said the project, in which WACOL was partnering with Ford Foundation, was aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

“We are coming from the angle of cultural practices that are discriminatory to the girl child, to the women; those cultural practices that reinforce violence against women and girls is what we are working around to expunge or to remove, to ensure that women enjoy full rights, just like every other human being.

“[The aim is] that at the end of the day, we will have development that is unhindered, a development that everyone is brought on board, and everyone contributes to and everyone takes ownership of.

“When everyone that is supposed to enjoy the dividends of every development is part of it, you understand that development, first of all, it will be quick, and it will be sustainable. So that is why we are here. Since it has to do with culture, of course the stakeholders are the people that we have invited today,” Prof Ezeilo said.

She said that the essence of the meeting was to validate a baseline research that WACOL which revealed that there were cultural norms and practices that discriminate against women.

“When you talk of violence, it is not just about physical violence or battery or causing physical harm, it also to do with making a female feel less of herself, less of a human being than the boys,” Ezeilo said.

She listed some of the discriminatory cultural practices to include disinheritance of women, giving preference to the male child, economic disempowerment, female genital mutilation, widowhood practices that make a widow lose some of his husband’s estates, among others.

“So, if community leaders and our royal fathers can come together and look at these things and review these cultures, which are most times, transferred from generation to generation, unwritten and doesn’t have a base in natural justice; of course completely obnoxious; and say, okay, these things have not been helping us over the years, let’s remove them, let’s give these people a proper place. When they do that, you discover that in the long run, we are going to have better society where everybody enjoys their rights and where development can be accelerated,” she added.

In her paper titled 'Assessing the Rights of Women and Girls in Abia State,' and presented during the meeting by a Law Lecturer with the University of Nigeria, Barr. Akachi Nwogu-Ikojo, which dwelt on specific cultural practices that reinforce gender inequality in selected communities in Abia, she suggested that communities should stop making laws that contravened the Constitution of the Country and those of the states.

She noted that many laws were restricting women from becoming traditional rulers; being members of the Eze’s cabinet, breaking kolanuts, pouring of libations or playing masquerades; becoming chief priests of gods, climb trees, tap palm wine or cut palm fruits, among other prohibitions.

She suggested that women should be encouraged to take part in general governance of the communities and the state. 

Traditional rulers, including the second Deputy Chairman, Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Harry Ugoala, the third Deputy, Eze Godfrey Onwuka, among others, noted that the meeting was timely adding that the traditional institution in the state has always been responsive to the fight against gender-based violence.

WACOL said the programme which would last for three years, would be carried out in the five South East states, as well as Delta and Edo states.

Source: News Express

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