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WARDC trains women groups, CSO on VAWG/SGBV/HP policies

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Founding Director of WARDC, Dr. Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode

To build capacity for women, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been charged to develop relevant skills on policies, preventions and response to Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and Harmful practices to better address these issues.

This will further support engagement with MDAs and inter-ministerial coordination processes at the national and state levels to promote Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE).

This was the dialogue at a two-day training for women, which is a part of the joint UN-EU Spotlight Initiative project, implemented by Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC). The spotlight initiative seeks to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030. The interventions focus on six mutually reinforcing pillars. WARDC is implementing pillar six in Lagos and FCT, which focuses on promoting an empowered civil society and autonomous women’s movement.

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According to the founding director, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, negative social norms, which condone or support VAWG and HP remain pervasive, while Gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread and 30 percent of women aged 15-49 have reported experiences of sexual abuse, with a marked divide between girls and women in urban and rural areas.

“The Nigerian Government’s response has included efforts to improve its institutional and policy framework, which include the Violence against Person Prohibition (VAPP) Act, enacted at the national level in 2015, the National Policy on the Elimination of FGM/C, the National Strategy to End Child Marriage, a Road Map and National Priority Actions to End Violence Against Children (VAC) which have been adopted and are being supported for implementation as well as several policies and frameworks for a conducive environment for women and girls’ access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services.

Executive Coordinator, Ajoke Aiysat Afolabi Foundation and facilitator at the training, Foluke Ademokun noted that there are gender policies in Nigeria, and it is the intention of government to promote gender equality, and gender issues, but where we have the issue is the will to execute. Hence there is a need to follow up on these policies to ensure that government delivers.

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“As CSOs their role is to be armed with necessary information needed to hold government accountable. For you to be an advocate, you must know what the policy says; know those responsible for implementing those policies and follow up. This is important because systems change, and you should be equipped with current information to push your demands.

“In the past women ask for 35 per cent affirmative action and since we have not gotten it, why not seek gender parity. As women we think that we do not have what it takes to get parity, we have compromised by saying if we get the 35 per cent, let us manage it, but then is that a pass mark when it comes to getting good grades?”

Ademokun added that overtime we have seen women do very well in different fields; the female football team has gotten us more laurels than the male team, so why not support those doing well. Both men and women are resources; why would Nigeria want to underserve itself by presenting less than half of those human resources and leave the rest behind. Women add value to the society, so they should be given the same access and opportunity as men.

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Another facilitator and Chair, board of Trustees Lagos State Civil Partnership (LACSOP) Ayo Adebusoye, stressed that the value system of any society determines the level of development and uprightness of citizens, and these values are instilled from childhood to school and as they grow up.

“We need to reorient our value system and that is the only way we can address inequality, gender balance and empowerment. How do we train our sons and daughters when we are young, and so it is important we realize that this is what we have to do ourselves?

“The religious leaders have a huge role to play in this because of the place they hold in the society. Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in the world and so it is a challenge for them to transmit those values that can have positive effect on society.”

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