By Ikenna Osuoha
Kevin Tokar, the Counsellor and Head of Cooperation, High Commission of Canada, Abuja, has commended the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Nigeria and the Project Steering Committee (PSC) of the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) project.
He gave the commendation at the 2021 PSC meeting in Abuja, aimed at reviewing and validating the project’s 2020 annual report and the 2021 Annual Work Plan and Budget, and address gaps if any.
The GAC-funded project is a three-year programme (2018-2020) aimed at “Addressing Gaps in Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) in Nigeria.”
Tokar, who noted that even though the project focus states are Bauchi, Sokoto and Oyo states, a lot had been done toward raising awareness on GBV and HTPs in the country.
He added that the specific objective of the project is to improve legislative and policy environment for the elimination of GBV and harmful practices in accordance to international standards and best practices.
He explained that the project is also to reduce the prevalence of GBV, Child and Early Forced Marriage.
Other goals of the project are to reduce cases of obstetric fistula, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), create an enabling environment, and provide care to affected women and girls in the three focus states.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Paullen Tallen, also commended UNFPA, GAC, the PSC and Implementing Partners (IPs) for contributing to efforts toward helping Nigeria to end HTPs and GBV.
Tallen, who was represented by Funke Oladipo, Deputy Director, Women Development in the ministry, expressed satisfaction over the way the project was being implemented, which she said would not only reduce GBV but contain stigma and enable women and girls to know their rights.
The UNFPA Country Representative, Ms Ulla Mueller, thanked the government of Canada for investing in the project.
Mueller, who was represented by Erika Goldson, the Deputy Country Representative of UNFPA Nigeria, called for the project’s sustainability, noting that the goals of the project are in line with the fund’s three transformative goals.
The PSC Chair, Dr Bello Bashir-Victor Abiodun, who declared the meeting open, said that the local chapter of International Federation of Women Lawyers, in collaboration with Nigerian Association of Women Journalists and others, initiated discussions with stakeholders for domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act which became a law in the country since 2015.
The chair, also the Oyo State Commissioner for Health, added that the project facilitated a high-level advocacy visit to the Oyo State governor and dialogue with members of the state house of assembly by the minister of women affairs to further enhance women empowerment in the state.
He explained that key aspect of the visit was the immediate passage of the VAPP bill and later signed by Gov. Abiodun Makinde of Oyo in February this year.
The steering committee is made up of representatives of more than 17 key organisations who are partners in the project.
The commissioners for health, budget and education from the three focus states of Oyo, Bauchi and Sokoto joined the meeting virtually and contributed to issues of FGM, fistula, rape and GBV relating to their states.
Mr Musa Elisha, the Gender and Reproductive Rights Specialist, UNFPA, itemised achievements in the area of fistula, saying that 300 additional frontline health workers were trained between 2020 and 2021.
Elisha explained that the training was on the use of urethral catheterisation in the prevention of obstetric fistula.
He also said that 1776 women and girls had free medical treatment on fistula, and identified the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the challenges in the course of carrying out the project.
Presentations were also made on the status of the different areas in the project implementation.(NAN)