Four organizations and rights groups have enumerated challenges militating against the reduction of violence against women and girls in Nigeria. The groups in a workshop in Port Harcourt, weekend, identified challenges which included unwillingness on the part of the victims to cooperate with investigators, stigmatization, fear of reprisal attacks, cultural hindrances, among others.
The groups which jointly organized the workshop include the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta, PIND, a non-profit foundation established to support a port folio of socio-economic development progrmmes for the Niger Delta to improve standards of living of communities in the region; the Fund for Peace, FFP, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research and educational organization that works to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security.
Others include the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria, MWAN, which, among other goals aims at reducing the impact of violence against women and girls and increase their participation and influence in peace building; the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, NSRP, which aims at helping Nigerians to better manage conflict and ensure the reduction in cases of violent conflicts.
The aim of the workshop with the topic ‘Reducing Violence Against Women and Girls through Conflict Early warning’ was practically organized to increase public awareness on the prevalence of sexual violence, sexual harassment, defilement, and other sorts of violence against women and girls.
In her presentation at the workshop, the Rivers State Secretary of MWAN, Dr. Vetty Agala, said that the workshop was geared towards measuring trends in violence against women and girls, as well as to break the culture of silence, and to educate women on how to avail themselves of existing laws to obtain justice.
Enumeration the emerging issues and challenges encountered in the process of providing redress for victims Dr. Agala included limited law enforcement mechanisms, poor knowledge of available policies and laws, weak institutional capacities/inadequate human resources training, limited social/welfare responsibility schemes, lack of physical shelter for victims in need, culture of silence, request for monetary compensation by victims, and poor funding of relevant investigative organizations.
Dr. Agala then said that popularization of all relevant laws and abolition of harmful widowhood practices, strengthening institutional capacities, popularization of all relevant laws, provision of shelter, and adequate funding, among others, were highly recommended for the fight against violence against women and girls to succeed.
Also in his presentation, the representative of PIND, Mr. Nkasi Wordu, identified gender-based violence to include, sexual, emotional, psychological, structural, among others, adding that women and children were mostly affected by drivers of violence such as culture and tradition, conflict situations, and educational ignorance, as well as and travelling around by activists to investigate cases.
Mr. Wordu said that the rights activists usually ran into hitches at the points when the victims stopped cooperating. He also said that one of the greatest challenges facing activists included where men shy away from reporting violence meted out on them by women.
He stated that increase of public awareness, opportunities for early warning response, and proper funding of investigation would bring down to the barest minimum, gender-based violence.
Participants were drawn from the medical, justice professions, the media and other civil organizations.