FIC Report (Abia State) – As the world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Commencement of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence,The Chairman, Abia State Action Committee on Gender Based Violence and Founder of Vicar Hope Foundation, the Wife of the Governor of Abia State, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu, has called for an end to the Stigmatization of Victims/Survivors, and for the country’s justice system to make special effort to speed up investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.
Mrs. Ikpeazu stated this during a World Press Conference to mark the Activities of 16 days of Activism, stressed that the event which is an International Campaign to challenge Violence against Women and Girls, holds every year.
The Theme for this year is “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women NOW”, Abia First Lady opined that the 16 days of Activism begins from 25 November which is the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women and end on 10th December which is the Human Rights Day.
She insisted that Violence Against Women and Girls often impair their productivity, by reducing their contribution to the social, economic, and political development of their families and communities. “The psychological effect of GBV has continually left imprints on the minds of the victim making them live beneath their potentials”.
The First Lady said Victims are less likely to report sexual abuses because of rejection, victim-blaming, stigmatization, and a slow and ineffectual investigation or prosecution saying that it is important for the Survivors to get access to justice and healthcare within a protected environment.
She pointed out that within this period, every organization in the World that operates in the human rights space, is undertaking one action or the other to highlight Gender Based Violence.
Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu, Ph.d urged people to defeat the spirit of fear and intimidation and speak up whenever they encounter gender based violence.
This is even as she called on all to support effort to end Gender Based Violence, GBV wherever they find themselves.
According to her, violence against Women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions while acknowledging that both men and women experience GBV, but with current statistics, it is obvious, that Women and Girls are the major victims, which is a violation of the fundamental human rights of Women and Girls.
She maintained that Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality.
Mrs. Ikpeazu said the forms of Violence against Women and Girls include rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, dowry-related abuse, marriage by abduction, forced marriage, and child marriage.
To address Gender Based Violence, Mrs Ikpeazu noted that GBV is very present at the community level, in schools, in work places, and in the family, while they have taken up strategic approaches to address this menace wherever it rears its heads.
In her words, “Ever since I became First lady, I have tried to show leadership in efforts to reduce or eliminate Gender Based Violence. With the support of a lot of organizations including those here present, we have achieved quite a lot which is available in the public space, but permit me to highlight a few things”.
Mrs. Ikpeazu outlined some actions taken by her Office to improve the GBV response and protection ecosystem in the state to include setting up structures and channels for victims to report and get medical and legal assistance.
She outlined that the GBV Resource Centre under her watch has begun training hundreds of persons including Community Health Workers, Nurses, Career Care Personnel from the 17 LGAs, Journalists, Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria security and Civil Defence Corps, Civil Society Organizations, GBV Desk Officers from the 17 LGAs, Local Government Chairpersons, Teachers, Student Advisors, Community Leaders, GBV Responders and Actors.
- Addressing economic challenges that contribute to GBV. There is a nexus between poverty and GBV even though it is not solely a contributive factor. Through my office and the Vicar Hope Foundation I have broadly addressed poverty reduction amongst women folk through skill acquisition trainings, empowerment of thousands of women, interest free loan scheme, and provision of accommodation for indigent families.
- Addressing legal and constitutional issues to end GBV In trying to fight GBV, I have enjoyed the special privilege of being the only First lady in the history of this country to address a plenary of a Legislative Assembly. For this opportunity and partnership I am grateful to the 7th Assembly of Abia State, led by Right Honourable Chinedum Orji. With the support of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and by the instrumentality of the House of Assembly, we were able to get the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law 2019. Work is ongoing at the Assembly for the passage of the Obnoxious Widowhood Practices bill, the Disability Bill and the review of the Child Rights law. All these legal instruments contribute immensely towards the elimination of Sexual and Gender Based Violence, especially Violence Against Women. It is also on record that Mrs. Ikpeazu perhaps is the first wife of governor in the country to have walked into a police station to hold meetings with police commissioner, officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force on the matter of speedy and diligent investigation for cases of violence against women, and about respecting the rights of women and girls during the investigative process.
- Building Sustainable Structures. In our efforts to build sustainable structure to address GBV we have done quite a number of things. Chief amongst those steps are the signing of the Abia State Violence Against Prohibition (VAPP) Law by the Governor. The Governor of Abia Okezie Ikpeazu reconstituted and strengthened the Abia State Gender-Based Violence Technical Working Group.
The Governor also constituted another body, the GBV Action Committee which was tasked with rapid response to incidences at the state level. It is chaired by myself. Membership is drawn from the various sectors working on GBV and the Committee provides multisectoral coordination in the state. Both committees were inaugurated by Mr. Governor on January 11, 2021.
The advocacy and leadership shown by me in the space directly led the wives of 17 Local government chairmen to form COWLGA-GBV (meaning Coalition of Wives of Local Government Against GBV). They have appointed GBV Desk officers in the 17 LGAs of the State.
With the support of the Governor we have set up a GBV Resource Centre in Abia. This Resource centre has published several tools and books for use in GBV response sector.
1. The Abia State Standardised GBV Incidence Reporting Form and Referal Form & Consent Form
2. The Abia State Standard Operating Procedures for GBV Response
3. The GBV Service Provider Pocketbook
4. Criteria for Establishment of GBV Incident Reporting Centre
5. Criteria for the Appointment of Protection Officers in line with Abia State VAPP Law
6. Criteria for the Appointment of GBV Desk Officers
7. A Quick Guide to Gender-Based Violence Response and Management
8. A Training Manual on Prevention, Response and Multi-sectoral Coordination of GBV in Abia State.
9. An Activity Handbook for Secondary Schools Clubs On School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV)
10. General Ideas on Starting and Running A Successful School Club
11. Recommended Standard Charter and Byelaws of Advocates (SRGBV) Clubs”
Dr. Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu added that the GBV Resource Centre has organized several trainings to build capacity for players, actors, advocates, and responders. This trainings were carried out with support and funding from the Nigeria Academy of Science
She informed that some of the trainees included Community Health Workers, Nurses, Career Care personnel from the 17 LGAs, journalists, medical doctors, lawyers, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, Civil Society Organizations, GBV Desk Officers from the 17LGAs, Local Government Chairpersons, teachers, student advisors, community leaders, GBV Responders and Actors.
“These training were carried out to improve the knowledge base in the sector, so that everyone involved with handling GBV in one way or another will understand its challenges and we all can work as a team to end GBV
4. Specific Community Approaches
Apparently, you can see ending GBV is a job for everyone. All hands must be on deck.
We are deepening our efforts. We held town hall meetings and community dialogues across the state to educate our people on GBV.
We are establishing Community GBV Watch Committees all over the state to fish out and address cases of GBV as they occur in our villages. Currently we have five of such committees working in select communities as a pilot.
4. Specific Approaches to Address School Related Gender based Violence.
We are also setting up anti-GBV school clubs in the state. We are commencing with a pilot of 20 schools. We have held trainings for the schools advisors and staff of the education ministry who will drive this process.
5. Specific Approaches to address GBV and gender discrimination in workplaces.
Last month, we had a workshop to develop Gender Policy for Abia State. This document when completed will assist Abia State in development planning, in resource distribution, in education, in health, in social welfare, in official appointments, in the workforce and the workplace, in provision of social amenities, in accessing the justice system and the rule of law, in virtually almost all expressions of strategic social development to eliminate discrimination.
The document will define the policy thrust of not just government administration as it relates to gender, but it will interweave with private sector’s course of action as it relates to gender”.
“I must assure you that because of these actions that we are taking, a lot of cases are being resolved successfully in the state”.
However the challenges facing greater success include Fear of stigmatization by victims/survivors and the slow or truncated litigation processes because of our justice system.
Women and girls are less likely to report sexual abuses because of rejection, victim-blaming, and stigmatization.
We need to keep addressing these challenges.
“I want to thank the various persons who have contributed to our successes in the past one year”While celebrating this 16 days of activism, we shall undertake several activities as follows-
25/11/2021: Launch of a Media campaign/Press Conference – 25/11/2021
– 26/11/2021: Radio phone- in programme.
– 6th-7th/12/2021 Community Tour for select LGAs
– 08/12/2021: Interactive Session/Meet-and-Greet with SRGBV Clubs (The Advocates) in Abia.
– 09/12/2021 Empowerment of Survivors
– 10/12/2021 Night of Orange Colours.