To drive the call for policy intervention, address violence against women and girls, grassroots women from marginalised groups have been sensitised to demand accountability from policy makers. These marginalised groups include women who are visually impaired, hearing-impaired, physically challenged, dwarfs and sex workers.
This was the thrust at a two-day capacity training organised by Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), launched by the European Union and United Nations Spotlight initiative to end all forms of violence against women and girls. This is with focus on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), Harmful practices (HP), Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
With one in every three women in Nigeria, victim of violence; sustained injuries from their husbands or partners and over one million people trafficked majorly women and girls, the training enabled the women understand their civil rights, demand improved policies and structures for justice.
According the founding director, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, the government needs to take more steps in addressing issues of SGBV. They must include funding, resources and build institutions that will respond to these issues.
“The government must also invest in prevention; hence the ministry of information must create awareness and let people know that Lagos state has zero tolerance on violence against women and girls. All these can only happen if the government put adequate resources in place. They have demonstrated a lot of will to end this, but they need to take steps to ensure that they put resources and proper planning.
“One of the things that we have worked with the government on, is to ensure that we have a state action plan on ending violence against women and girls and this will be a multi sectorial coordination because this issue can’t be addressed by the Ministry of Women Affairs alone, the Ministry of Health will handle response, and the justice system including the police should be involved.”
Akiyode-Afolabi noted that hence there must be a standard operating system for the police and a monitoring of police conduct. There must be a database in the state that says what happens on a daily basis and then follow ups to ensure that issues are addressed. Since the state does not have these mechanisms in place, there are no checks and balances to monitor and know if what we are doing is impacting on the majority of people.
She stressed that having seen quite a number of rape cases and Lagos state has the first sexual offence court in the country which is commendable, there is need to work on how long people take to access justice as the progress is still very long and torturous for survivors of violence against women.
Akiyode-Afolabi added, “we are particularly interested in women who are marginalised so that they can also benefit because for them, it’s a two level discrimination, while a woman is discriminated for their gender, there’s is a double jeopardy or at times triple.”