By Dada Ahmed
Imagine a situation where a husband gives his pregnant wife the beating of her life on a flimsy excuse that she fails to cook food for him on time. The trauma resulting from the merciless beating landed the poor wife in the hospital and at the of her five-day admission in the hospital, she lost her 7-month-old pregnancy.
As if this is not enough, when she returned to her matrimonial home, rather than expressing remorse for perpetuating the crime against her helpless soul, the husband threatened to send her packing to God knows!
Adding salt to the wound of the traumatized wife, some of her neighbours, claiming to be shooting trouble, prevailed on her to apologize to her husband, ironically, for disobeying him. Human rights experts describe the scene as imagined rather than said.
How can one explain a scenario where a 15-year-old girl, who is a product of a broken home, went to stay with her aunt to find happiness? Her aunty’s husband whom she referred to as her “stepfather” leveraged her pitiable to put her in a family way.
No doubt, emotional and mind-blowing stories such as these are bound in many societies in the world and they mirror the glaring and rising incidence of gender-based violence in society.
While many victims of gender-based violence survive to tell their gory story, others are not as lucky as they have passed on, leaving their loved ones and other concerned members of the larger society in perpetual sorrow and bemoaning with no desired solution in sight.
The prevalence of gender-based violence in society and its heavy burden, largely on women and girl-child, has been anchored on culture, religion, stereotype, mindset, and man inhumanity toward men among other odd factors.
In all this, human rights experts lay the blame on the doorstep of men whom they describe as overwhelmingly the perpetrators of the brazen crime against women and girl-child.
Kogi state, an integral part of the global community experiencing this pervasive crime, displays worrisome statistics and growth with women and girl-child leading.
Kalu Samuel of the Centre for Integrated Health Programme Gender Mainstreaming had earlier disclosed at a public forum in Lokoja that 2,203 cases were reported in Kogi in 2023, quoting the NGBV Data Situation Room and Dashboard for Prevention and Response to GBV in Nigeria to support his claim.
Prompted by the development, some human rights groups, lawyers, NGOs, Foundations as well other well-meaning organizations in Kogi state have resolved to pool resources together to fight the menace frontally.
This must have prompted APC Women Professional Council, Kogi state to boost the crusade aimed at finding lasting solutions to the elimination of the menace in the state.
Kogi State Chapter of the organization, therefore took the lead on Saturday, 3 December 2023 when it organized a media parley, obviously to raise its voice against the menace and proffer meaningful solutions for its elimination.
The media party is part of events marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a key international moment representing the clarion call for an end to violence against women and girls, globally.
Sources from Google recall that the 16 Days Activism for the Elimination of Gender-based Violence was the initiative of activists at the inauguration of the Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991.
The Center for Women’s Global Leadership, based at Rutgers University, USA, and was founded in 1989 by Charlotte Bunch, the former executive director and an internationally renowned activist for women’s human rights.
The organizers in Lokoja said the two events provided them ample opportunity to add and magnify their voice and conscious call to end gender-based violence in the state.
The State Coordinator of APC Professional Women Council, Hajia Rekiya Onaivo Sani, said the organization considered it imperative to join forces for the elimination of gender-based violence, because of the danger it posed to the people, the growth and development of society, particularly its sour effects on women and girl-child.
The World Health Organization, she added, revealed that 35 percent of all gender-based violence affects women and girl-child globally.
According to Hajia Sani, gender-based violence goes beyond physical assault, adding that occurs in other spheres of human life such as the political environment, where some people believe that some political offices are reserved for men.
Adding her voice, a gender activist, Mrs. Halima Oiza Sadiq, called on the Kogi state government to ensure a functional law that would eliminate gender-based violence in the state and bring to justice, perpetrators of violence, especially against women and girl-child.
Mrs. Sadiq is the Chief Executive Officer, and CEO, of Chachavivi Women and Girl-Child Development Foundation, Lokoja. The parley has a topic; “Policy Advocacy, a Panacea For The Elimination of Gender-based Violence in Kogi State.”
She also called on the state government to domesticate the National Policy on Gender-, Based Violence to enhance the course of eliminating the menace.
Mrs Sadiq expressed optimism that such action would curb if not eliminate, violence against women and girls to the barest minimum and deter those making life unbearable for such a segment of the population in the society.
The GEO expressed concern that unless drastic action is taken against perpetrators of gender-based violence against women and the rest members of the society, through synergy between government and other stakeholders, the state would continue to record such negative development.
In her speech sent to the occasion, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Hajia Fatima Kabir Buba, disclosed that the state government had started the process of domesticating the National Policy on Gender-Based Violence, assuring that a committee towards that effect would be in place soon.
The commissioner, who was represented by a director in the ministry, Mrs. Josephine Motunrayo Babatunde, however, called for synergy among critical stakeholders in the course of eliminating gender-based violence in the state to ensure the success of the noble mission.
According to Hajia Buba, the ministry is not resting on its oars, adding that it has put in place various programs to mitigate violence against women and girl-child and to empower women such as giving them cash grants.
At the plenary session of the event, Hajia Rekiya Onaivo Sani said the organization had been doing a lot in sensitizing the public to the danger of gender-based violence in the state.
According to her, the organization joined the 16 Days of Activism because of its firm belief in ending gender-based violence in the state.
She said that though gender-based violence is not limited to women and girl-child, experience showed that bore the larger brunt of the problem.
Hajia Sani said: “APC Women Progressional Council is not all about politics, we are looking at how to build the capacity of women in terms of them acquiring skills to be able to feature, prominently, and match the competencies of their partners.
“This is to ensure that the impression that one position is meant for males and another for females is eradicated.”
She, however, cautioned women, particularly mothers, on the need to be conscious of the way and manner they treat the young ones or their children in order not to inflict them with violence psychologically and otherwise.
Hajia, Sani, who is also the Managing Director, of Kogi State Enterprise Development Agency, KEDA, assured women in the state that, 40 percent of loans en route through the agency, meant to empower small-scale business owners, would be allocated to them to boost their businesses.
The representative of FIDA in the state, Barr. Lilian Okolo reminded the people that gender-based violence had no ethnicity or any other divisive expressions but pervasive and stressed the need for functional policy to make its elimination effective in the state.
She said that FIDA had offered legal aid to many women and girls in the state who suffered gender-based violence as part of its effort to eliminate such inhuman practices.
Barr. Okolo called for the building of the capacity of the structures and the provision of an enabling environment for them to effectively execute their job.
Most of the speakers at the event commended Hajia Sani for organizing the event, adding that her effort and that of the organization would a long way in contributing to the concerted efforts to mitigate gender-based violence in the state.
The representative of Jamat Nasiru Islam, Alhaji Mohammed Wandana, advised Islamic leaders to stop officiating instances of forceful marriage, stressing that it is against Islamic injunction.
“Marriage must be contracted with the consent of the two parties involved, according to Islamic teaching.
“A lady should not be seen as a weaker sex because that is against the principle of Islam,” he stressed.
Pst. Bola Bala Gbogbo, who represents the Christians at the occasion, called on the people to have a change of mindset about the issue of gender-based violence and contribute towards eliminating the pervasive crime and contribute to peaceful relationships and unity of mankind.
For instance, religious leaders of the two predominant religions in the state need to inculcate in their followers the fact, as enunciated in Islam and Christianity, that every human being, irrespective of sex, has equal value, dignity, and importance before God and should be treated as such.
They should also stress in their sermon, the imperative of love among mankind, because the absence of this in the minds of some people prompts them to believe that they are better than others, which contributes to the breeding of gender-based violence against a fellow human being.
The traditional or community leaders, being the custodians of peoples’ culture and tradition are highly revered and their words command absolute respect.
It becomes incumbent on these very important figures in society to leverage their value to preach peace and respect for sex, either man or woman.
All eyes are on the members of the political class to jettison the idea of perceiving certain political appointments as the exclusive reserve for the male folk. This is because experience has shown that many women, either elected or appointed office, have proved their mettle to the admiration of the people when compared to their male counterparts.
Madia practitioners, murderers of people’s character and behavior, should emphasize reports that see men and women as having equal importance in their contribution to nation-building and national development.
Human rights experts should not relent in their avowed determination to point out the ills of gender-based violence in their seminars and workshops to fast-track the process of eliminating the menace.
The crucial role in arresting gender-based violence should be started by the parents.
They treat the children equally in moral training, irrespective of sex right from infancy. This is to enable them to internalize the concept of equality of sex in their interaction with other members he society later in life.
All said and done, it is instructive to note that, gender-based violence is a whirlwind blowing across the world and the sour effect tilted more toward women and girl-child.
It is apt, therefore, to say that the elimination of gender-based violence requires the active involvement of all and sundry to put the menace behind history.