By Oluwafunke Ishola
The African Union Commission (AUC) has called for collaboration in finding creative and constructive solutions to the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence.
Ms Victoria Maloka, Head, Coordination and Outreach Division, Women, Gender and Youth Directorate, AU, made the call on Tuesday in Lagos.
Maloka said this during the Spotlight Initiative Africa Regional Programme (SIARP) second annual review and learning workshop.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Spotlight Initiative is a global partnership between the United Nations, the European Union, and the African Union.
The partnership seeks to end violence against women and girls, specifically female genital mutilation, child marriage and other harmful practices.
According to UN, violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women.
Others include threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Maloka said that the high rate of violence against women and girls in the region was maintained by the persistence of harmful gender norms, gender disparities, conflicts, among others.
In order to resolve this, Maloka said that AU had been working with partners toward changing harmful social and gender norms that perpetuated gender inequality.
She called on partners to continue to make investments and be strategic with resources to sustain work being done at national, regional and continental levels.
“What brings us together is a vision to deliver as one, the Africa that we want, for the Africa that we want, by Africans.
“This would help to shape policies and make a great impact on women and girls so that they may participate fully in economic activities, political affairs and social endeavours,” she said.
Similarly, Ms Anu John, UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, Nigeria, said that gender-based violence was deep and required multilateral and multi-agency collaboration.
She said that Africa, and indeed Nigeria, had made progress in implementing the Spotlight Initiative since its introduction five years ago.
John noted that Nigeria had enacted the Violence Against Person Prohibition Act in 36 states, domesticated and implemented the act.
She added that advocacy was being done and there had been success stories around the VAPP Act.
“Gender based violence is now at the forefront of everyone’s discussion and within the UN itself. It’s part of our leave no one behind agenda.
“It’s one of our transformative works which the UN is supporting and wants addressed, not just at a programme level but in ensuring that Nigeria sees a shift in its protection of women and girls issues,” she said.
Also, Ms Meltem Agduk, Gender Programme Manager, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that about 200 million girls and women are still faced with gender mutilation.
Agduk said that GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence.
She said that UNFPA was working to respond and reduce GBV, support programmes in over 150 countries and territories, globally.
On her part, Mrs Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Domestic Sexual Violence Agency, said that Lagos had shown its commitment in ensuring full implementation of the various Spotlight Initiative being driven by both the civil society organisations and the government.
Vivour-Adeniyi said that addressing gender-based violence and harmful practices required a multi-disciplinary approach.
“The role of the state government in reducing the menace to the barest minimum and ensuring perpetrators are held accountable cannot be overemphasised,” she said.
According to her, the DSVA registered 5,333 cases in 2022, noting that 70 per cent of the cases were domestic violence, while the rest were sexual violence cases.
“This year, we have started to do an average of 250 new cases monthly,” she said.
She noted that data collection was fundamental and critical to drive policies and scientific programmes and providing holistic services from a survivor-centred approach.
NAN reports that the three-day workshop had representatives from eight Spotlight Initiative countries, key partners and stakeholders, to evaluate effective programmatic interventions at regional and national levels.
The goal was to deepen impact and find innovative approaches to sustain the impact of the programme among AU member states.
The Spotlight Initiative project in Nigeria saw an expansion of its reach to include more Persons With Disabilities (PWD), the socio-economically disadvantaged, as well as adolescent girls and women.
It secured a strong basis for sustainability through the buy-in of the government and critical stakeholders at all levels.
The Nigeria project hinges on six pillars, namely: Laws and policies; institutions; prevention; services; data; CSOs/Women’s movement. (NAN)
Edited by Kamal Tayo Oropo/Olawunmi Ashafa