By Oswald Agwu
Ebonyi State judiciary has been called upon to urgently set up a Gender based violence Court as provided in the Violence Against Persons Prohibition law.
The call was an outcome of the quarterly GBV stakeholders coordinator meeting held Friday at Clevero Hotel, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.
The meeting was organized by the USAID-funded Integrated Health Program (USAID-IHP), in collaboration with Ebonyi State Gender- Based Violence Task Force.
The GBV task force in the State consist of representatives of core governnent line ministries, departments and agencies that deal directly with issues partaining to health and social welfare of citizens. They include the Ministries of health, Education, Justice, Women Affairs and Social development; the Police and other security agencies, National Agency for the prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), among others.
The major drivers of the activities of the task force are Civil Society Organizations advocating for rights of women and girls, gender and social inclusion in the State.
Speaking to newsmen at the event, the State Coordinator, GBV task force, Barr. Mrs. Faithvin Nwancho, noted that the task force, since its inception about a year ago, has increased general awareness on the dangers of GBV as well as encouraged victims to speak out.
She added that it has provided the platform for victims to properly channel their complaint, get help, as well as seek redress appropriately.
Nwancho, also the GBV desk officer in the State Ministry of Justice, however, lamented that the non availability of a distinct Court for GBV cases posses a challenge to the efforts of the task force in giving desired expediency to such matters.
Nwancho explained: “Another major challenge we have is the issue of dispensation of justice.
“Under the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law, the judiciary has been mandated to create a GBV Court.
“But up till now, that Court has not been set up.
“We hope that when the Court is set up, issues of GBV will get the required attention and urgency it requires.”
Speaking on some of the achievements of the task force, the Coordinator stated: “Within a space of one year, we have been able to interface with and sensitize over 5,000 women face-to-face at the grassroots level.
“We have, in collaboration with other agencies like NAPTIP rescued many girls taken for trafficking to other places.
“We have also carried out advocacy to traditional rulers and other community leader, and we have been to higher institutions of learning, sensitizing them on issues of GBV.
“That has been responsible for the level of reportage of GBV cases that we are receiving: a great improvement from what it used to be.”
Speaking on the essence of the meeting, the Gender Social Inclusion and Community Engagement advisor for USAID-IHP in the State, Augustine Onwe, noted that it was for key players in the fight against GBV to review achievements, challenges and way forward.
He noted that issues on GBV was one of the features around maternal, new born and child health which is an intervention area of USAID-IHP in the State.
Onwe added: “USAID-IHP is providing technical support to the Ministry of health in Ebonyi State, and the sole aim of IHP is to eliminate or reduce maternal, new born and child mortality and morbidly in the State.
“We are intervening in maternal and child health, immunization, nutrition and gender issues, among others.
“Gender and social inclusion is cross-cutting because it is for everybody, and part of our intervention is the establishment of the GBV task force which has a multisectoral approach.
“In this coordination meeting, we bring stakeholders together to review achievements so far, identify challenges and forge ways forward.
“Here we have the line MDA, the Police, NAPTIP, Nigeria correctional service, as well as various civil society organizations.”
Stakeholders at the meeting renewed their commitment to reducing GBV to the barest minimum in the State. They agreed to expand the scope of advocacy to other suggested state and federal institutions in the State.