West African traditional, religious leaders pledge to end GBV, harmful practices

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West African traditional, religious leaders pledge to end GBV, harmful practices

By Justina Auta

West Africa traditional and faith leaders have pledged to end Gender Based Violence (GBV) and harmful traditional practices affecting women and girls, especially at the community level.

They made the commitment at a summit organised by the UN Women with support from the Ford Foundation on Tuesday in Abuja.

The summit was part of its “Traditional and Cultural Leaders for Ending GBV by Advancing Advocacy, Policy, and Social Norms Change in Nigeria and West Africa (LEAP)” project (2023-2026).

Ms Beatrice Eyong, UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, described GBV as a violation of human rights, a barrier to development, and a threat to peace and security.

“In West Africa, over 40 per cent of women are victims of physical and/or sexual violence.

“These acts of abuse are so common that they tend to be normalised
by women themselves,” she said.

She said the summit would provide them with tools, regional accountability framework to support continuous monitoring and hold them accountable for their commitments towards eliminating GBV and harmful practices.

“We know with your commitment and support; we can create an Africa where women and girls live free from fear of violence.

“And where our traditional and religious practices can be upheld and celebrated without compromising on human rights,” she said.

Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation, said: “Let us continue drawing on the wisdom of our traditions and collective resolve to address the scourge of GBV and create a more just equitable society for women and girls in West Africa.

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“Together, we can achieve our shared vision of a world free from violence, bias, prejudice and discrimination.’

Mrs Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, Minister of Women Affairs stressed the need to collaborate with stakeholders, especially religious and traditional leaders to end GBV and harmful practices against women and girls.

“Each time I speak with any of you, I learn lessons and I push it into action immediately because I want this to succeed, and it is only through that that we can liberate the women, girls and babies,” she said.

Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto, noted the existence of GBV in the society overtime, calling for more actions and policy implementation to avoid re-convening meetings to discuss the same issues.

Abubakar, who is also the President General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, said: “we are ready to give our best to the country, talk about peace and stability based on justice, fair play, and equity.

” This is a large turnout of traditional leaders, which shows that traditional institutions are always ready to be proactive and progressive.”

Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ooni of Ile-Ife, stressed the need to prioritise issues affecting women and implementing practical solutions that would address them.

“Traditional rulers have a very important role to play, and we still need to do more in giving women a place to stand, how they can be beneficial to society irrespective of religion.

“Maybe some religion and cultural beliefs usually confine women, but there are several other ways that you can give women a sense of place and make sure they are part of the society and have things they can contribute,” he said.

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Rev. Daniel Okoh, President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said: ” we must give moral leadership in speaking out against all forms of violence and injustice including GBV.

“And to work towards a more just and equitable society for all to live and flourish in without fear of discrimination or intimidation.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that various religious and traditional leaders from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria Republic, and Liberia were in attendance at the event, aimed at eliminating GBV and transforming harmful social norms at the community level. (NAN)

Edited by Ali Baba-Inuwa

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