Neem Foundation: Women Discrimination, Disempowerment, Clog In The Wheel Of A Nation

A section of women at the occasion

The discrimination and disempowerment of women and girls is a clog in the wheel of progress of a nation, the Executive Director, Neem Foundation, Dr. Fatima Akilu has said.

Speaking at a Stakeholder Forum in Abuja organized by Neem and Ford foundations to Review Access and Response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Northwest Nigeria, Akilu said: “The discrimination and disempowerment of women and girls threaten democracy, peace and security and is an obstacle to sustainable development. It weakens social cohesion, harmony, and justice and put a heavy burden on national economies.”

She however said that “despite the various challenges and gaps, progress has been seen in recent years which is attributed to the leadership of many stakeholders at the Abuja meeting.

Akilu told the gathering of stakeholders in Sokoto, Kaduna and Kano, that: “From being hidden in a culture of silence and impunity, eliminating violence against women has become a national priority, supported by a solid national and international framework.

She explained that “the VAPP and Child Protection Laws in the states obligate them to take responsibility for responding to violence against women and girls. Implementing and adopting these Laws is a strong foundation for women’s and girls’ rights to equality and freedom from violence. However, these documents remain inoperative and unenforceable if not properly implemented in the states that have adopted them.”

“That we are sitting here today discussing these issues means we still have a long way to go. We are here today to recognise that enhanced coordination and strategic partnerships can bridge the difference between despair and hope in a person who has experienced violence due to their sex or gender.”

She added that: “Although there have been setbacks, we have seen many good practices in recent years. It is essential to look at the evidence, at ‘what works’ to address violence against women.

“Such experiences can inspire and motivate others and serve as the engine for replication and scaling up. Most importantly, they must underpin the expanding global framework and consensus on ending violence against women and girls.

“Today’s engagement will be an opportunity to share evidence from the ground and to demonstrate that when Governments make adequate political and financial commitments, it is possible to see progress in eliminating violence against women.

“We hope to see new and improved laws and national action plans that provide for protection and provision of multi-sectoral services that include free hotline services, police and justice responses, shelters, legal aid, medical and health care services, including sexual and reproductive health services, and psycho-social counseling and support to women survivors of violence and their children.

“It is also essential that these services work together most efficiently and effectively to reduce the burden and impact on women and girls in reporting, response and recovery. These processes can be empowering for women.”

Akilu said: “We count on sensitisation/education programmes that teach human rights, equality and mutual respect. We need increasing numbers of women in politics, law enforcement, and peacebuilding architecture.

“We need adequate social protection, equal economic opportunities and decent jobs for women,” calling on all stakeholders present not to stop at words, insisting that: “We all must affirm a culture of zero tolerance for violence against women. At the centre of our discussions must be only one consideration – progress for women and girls everywhere.”

On her part, the Sokoto State Honorable Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, Hajiya Kulu Abdullahi Sifawa commended the Neem and Ford foundations for a job well done in the execution of the 18-month-funded project “Prevent and Protect; Strengthening access and response to GBV in Sokoto, Kaduna, and Kano State”.

She attested to the change in the narrative in prevention and response to GBV and related issues that have impacted the lives of women and children in Sokoto state.

She disclosed that the Sokoto State has experienced 1,1 92 cases of gender-based violence since the Nanan Khadija Sexual Assault Referral Centre opened its doors in May 2020 with a total of 779 females and 413 males out of which 618 are females aged below 18 years while 388 are males that are minors.

She added: “In the year 2022 alone, we have witnessed 476 cases of gender-based violence of which 85% are against women and girls.”

She said: “The Sokoto State Government has made giant efforts to both Prevent and respond to GBV through the passage of relevant laws, and policies, the establishment of structures, and the strengthening of systems that both prevents and responds to GBV and other related issues in the state. The fight has also been sustained to ensure justice for the survivors and their families.”



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