UN, EU back gender-based violence fund in Nigeria

Poised to combat gender-based violence with every tool in the box, the United Nations Women and the European Union Spotlight Initiative have pledged support in their various capacities during the launch of a private sector gender-based violence fund in Lagos.

The initiative, which is a brainchild of Women In Successful Careers, played host to high-profile personalities drawn across private and public sectors in the country.

The fund aims to provide a resource pool to ensure ample support to victims/survivors of gender-based violence.

In her opening remarks, Founder and Chairperson of WISCAR, Amina Oyagbola, described gender-based violence as a pandemic and a dark shadow that has left devastating consequences on the Nigerian society

According to her, GBV is a serious violation of one’s fundamental human right; hence, any society that turns a blind eye to this fails to uphold the imperative ideal of human dignity.

She noted that gender-based violence does not just harm the victims, but has far-reaching implications on the economy, the community and the society at large.

Oyagbola said, “Gender-based violence has been a longstanding issue globally and definitely in Nigeria. Heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria experienced a 60 per cent in gender-based violence cases with women and girls being mostly affected. Let me also say that men also suffer from this affliction

Gender-based violence reduces productivity. It increases healthcare costs and affects social cohesion. Furthermore, it perpetuates poverty, inequality and discrimination. This is why it is so important that we convene to learn more about it, to create awareness and to work together to address GBV.

“We must ensure that everyone, regardless of gender is able to live and work in safety. We must do so with a sense of urgency, recognising that every moment we delay and ignore the violence that is present in our workplace, in our communities, is a moment when lives are not only negatively impacted, but often, lives are lost completely.”

Also speaking, the UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Beatrice Eyong, said the initiative was part of a series of engagements that the UN Women have embarked on with the support of WISCAR to sensitise the private sector on the issue of gender inequality, which is the unfinished business of our generation.

She said Gender-based violence is not only a serious problem in Nigeria, but all around the world.

According to her, one in three women in Nigeria has experienced physical violence by the age of 15.

Eyong recalled that in 2022, nearly 2000 women accessed the one-stop centre set up by the UN in Sokoto.

She said, “GBV includes harmful practices such as child marriage. 43 per cent of girls in Nigeria are married before the age of 18, which means that their chances of education, access to sexual and reproductive health are severely stifled.”

She added that ending GBV is not only a social imperative but an economic one as a World Health Organisation estimation of the cost of GBV in Nigeria had stated that the country loses 0.7 per cent of its GDP to this menace.

She added, “The Spotlight Initiative, which the UN Women are implementing and is funded by the EU, the UN and the government of Nigeria had found that gender-based violence accounts for 50 per cent of workplace absences among women in Nigeria resulting in significant losses and drop in productivity.”

On her part, the Political Officer Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Agnieszka De Oliveira, said ensuring a society free of GBV is critical to the development of Nigeria.

Noting that the EU frowns at all forms of gender-based discrimination, Oliveira said that the private sector would be a key player in the charge against gender inequality.

She regretted that women are key drivers of the economy but have historically been marginalised and shortchanged.

Meanwhile, the Director of Gender Affairs and the Focal Officer of Gender-Based Violence at the Federal Ministry of Affairs, Friya Bulus, noted that much work needs to be done to stem the tide of gender-based violence in Nigeria.

She said Gender-based violence is not only a societal issue but a business issue that will affect the economy if left unchecked

She said, “It has become clear that addressing this issue will necessitate multi-sectoral collaboration and participation of government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector. The establishment of a gender-based development fund is a welcome development.”

The Head of Service in Lagos — Hakeem Muri-Okunola, represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Oluyemi Kalesanwo, said that even though there have been numerous campaigns by the public sector to rein in gender-based violence, government alone cannot get the job done.

She assured WISCAR of the continued partnership of the state government in the fight against gender-based violence.

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