Violence against women has economic cost, says WARDC
The Iyalode of Yorubaland and Egbaland, Alaba Lawson, has said that gender-based violence is not only devastating for survivors and their families but also has significant social and economic costs.
Speaking at the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) Strategy Meeting with support from Ford Foundation, Council of Iyalodes on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls in Lagos, recently, Lawson stated that in some countries, violence against women cost up to 3.7 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), more than double what most governments spend on education.
According to her, failure to address the issue would result in a significant future cost as numerous studies have shown that children growing up with violence are more likely to become survivors themselves or perpetrators of violence in the future.
“One characteristic of gender-based violence is that it knows no social or economic boundaries and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds. This issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries.
“Decreasing violence against women and girls requires a community-based, multi-pronged approach, and sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders. The most effective initiatives would address underlying risk factors for violence, including social norms regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence,” she said.
Lawson said that Nigerian traditional cultural practices uphold the belief in the inherent superiority of males over females, adding that the customs of marriage in this society, which involve payment of bride price and dowry, promote the values that give men proprietary rights over women and girls, and encourage polygamy.
“Hence, the gender prejudice of preference for a male to a female child within the family structure pervades through various ethnic groups in Nigeria. This results in girls being given less educational privilege and other opportunities as compared to boys even in the face of civilisation and modern religions brought by colonisation and civilisation,” she noted.
Lawson therefore emphasised the need for traditional institutions and women advocacy groups to come together to activate mechanisms to stem the tide of violence against women, saying the traditional institutions on the one hand bear considerable influence on the people at the grassroots and because women are the most vulnerable as far as the issue of gender-based violence is concerned, women groups and leaders would naturally be motivated to rally themselves to fight the socio-malady.
“Health workers alone cannot transform the cultural, social and legal environment that give rise to and condones widespread violence against women. Ending physical and sexual violence requires long-term commitment and strategies involving all parts of society. Many governments have committed themselves to overcoming violence against women by passing and enforcing laws that ensure women’s legal rights and punish abusers. In addition, community-based strategies can focus on empowering women, reaching out to men, and changing the beliefs and attitudes that permit abusive behaviour. Only when women gain their place as equal members of society will violence against women no longer be an invisible norm but, instead, a shocking aberration,” she said.
Founding Director, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the participants were selected because of the role they play in the society.
“The Iyalode has a role to ensure women welfare is attended to and we believe gender-based violence is a major issue affecting communities across the world. This project would enable us to reach the people in the grassroots and the best way to do that is through the women chiefs, that is the Iyalodes and Iyalojas,” she explained.