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Soroptimist joins fight against gender-based violence, empowers victims 

By Opeyemi Babalola
30 January 2022   |   4:03 am
Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world, especially as the estimates published by the World Health Organization (WHO), indicated that 1 in 3 (30 percent) of women globally have been subjected to either physical...

Chairman, Board of Trustees, Soroptimist International Nigeria, Josephine Nwokedi (left); Bunmi Akpata; and newly-installed National President, Mrs Gloria Iveren Bai at her investiture in Abuja<br />

• Installs Bai As President
Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world, especially as the estimates published by the World Health Organization (WHO), indicated that 1 in 3 (30 percent) of women globally have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual violence from intimate partners or non-intimate partners in their lifetime.
 
Over the years, researchers have proven that Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence. Often times, the victims of violence can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, traumatic fistula, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death.
   
In Nigeria, the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation, as there was an increase in the number of reported cases of gender-based violence in 23 states during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
   


And Soroptimist International is one of the non-governmental organizations working to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. The mandate is to educate, enable and empower women and the girl child as well as alleviate their suffering, with over 72,000 club members spread across 121 countries.
   
In Nigeria, the group has been committed to the ideas, objectives and philosophy of the international body, working to promote gender equality and women empowerment.
   
It was therefore not surprising that the Soroptimist International Nigeria Association installed a new president.
   
And the mantle of leadership fell on the Makurdi Zonal Commander, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, Mrs Gloria Iveren Bai, as she was recently installed as the 24th National President of Soroptimist International Nigeria Association.
   
The event took place at the Chelsea Hotel, Abuja and the investiture ceremony was performed by the past National President of Soroptimist International Nigeria and Board of Trustees member, Mrs. Josephine Nwokedi.
   
The chairman of the event, Sir Damian Dodo, SAN, while giving his opening remark, paid tribute to the new president and her predecessors, adding that it’s a thing of joy to be associated with Soroptimist International because of their mission and their vision.
   
“I’m not surprised that today, Gloria is being installed as 24th president because she has been a faithful and loyal wife, and a very caring mother and she takes whatever she does very seriously. On behalf of my dear wife, classmates of your dear husband, Damien, we congratulate you today and we celebrate with you.
 
“As you assume office of the president, I want you to remember that leadership is a challenging responsibility, it calls for patience, tolerance, divergence of views and it calls for humility. It is not going to be as easy as just being a member of Soroptimist, because the focus, the energy and drive of this organization, the birth of fresh ideas and directions rest entirely on your being.”
   

The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, represented by Mrs. Victoria Lar, congratulated Soroptimist International Nigeria on the installation of a new President and saluted the selflessness of the association towards the wellbeing of women and the girl child.
   
“The idea of Soroptimist International Nigeria Association (SINA) resonates with the mandate of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in this regard. I salute the self-resilience of the members of the organization, who despite their challenging experience during the COVID-19 lock down was supported by the ministry in mobilising support to the most vulnerable in our society.
   
“To the president, best sister, Gloria Bai, as you take up the mantle of leadership of this oldest women organization in the world, on behalf of the management and staff of the ministry and as well as Nigeria women, I congratulate you.” 
 
The minister prayed that the Almighty God will grant the president foresight to move the association to more enviable heights.     
 
Bai, while giving her speech shortly after the investiture, said: “Women are key to achieving transformational, economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development.”
   
The new president of the club said she would, together with her team, uphold the principles of Soroptimism, which is to strive for the advancement of the status of women, promising to focus on projects that will better the lives of women and girls.
   
She said that she will embark on providing sheltering facility, a safe house for survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Victims (SGBV) and victims of Human Trafficking as well as counseling and psycho-social support in order to assist the survivors regain their self-esteem and come out of the trauma they might be going through.
 
“We will provide vocational training facilities for women and girls that will enable us to provide appropriate economic empowerment and comprehensive rehabilitation for SGBV victims,” she said.
   
She also added that the group would provide educational support to the girl child, advocate and create awareness on sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking.
   
“We will embark on advocacy and also train women on different skills. We have contacted some vocational centres and we already have agreement with them. We will give the trainees seed capital, which they will work with. We will also monitor and mentor them.

“We all cannot afford to be silent, we have to stand up and do something no matter how little to alleviate the suffering of these women and girls,” she said.
   
At the event, the new president gave out awards to distinguished and notable individuals to honour them for what they are doing in the lives of women and girls. The Minister for Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen was honoured in recognition of her leadership qualities and championing the cause of women in Nigeria; Director General, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Mallam Yakubu Ibn Mohammed in recognition of his organisation’s advocacy campaign of 2001 “Stand Against Rape and Rapist”; wife of Benue State governor, Dr. Eunice Ortom in recognition of service to humanity, and upliftment of women and girls in Benue State.

Special awards were handed out to the CEO, Proedge, Alhaji Tajudeen Kareem; and Director, Research and Programme Development (NAPTIP), Godwin Muoka for their support to Soroptimist International, while a posthumous award was given to the immediate past president, late Anthonia Okoli for her support and service to humanity.