L-R Assistant PRO, FIDA Bayelsa, Excel Bright_ Managing Solicitor - TRIAX Solicitors, Moses Oruaze Dickson and Chairperson, FIDA Bayelsa, Barr Dise Sheila

Anayo Okolie

Violence against children is a pervasive problem in Nigeria, with six out of every 10 children suffering one or more forms of physical, sexual or emotional violence before they get to the age of 18. In order to eradicate the menace, women lawyers in Bayelsa under the auspices of International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, has pledged to stand against any form of domestic violence against women and children in the society.

Speaking during a special meeting with the Managing Solicitor of TRIAX Solicitors, Moses Oruaze Dickson who also doubles as the founder, Goldcoast Developmental Foundation, a non-profit that provides support for the low income women and children, the Chairperson of FIDA, Yenagoa branch, Dise Sheila said the visit by the women lawyers was to discuss a possible partnership and legal support with TRIAX Solicitors and Goldcoast Developmental Foundation to ensure the curbing of sexual molestation of children especially the girl-child in the Niger-Delta region.

Sheila said that even though there are laws in the country to protect the rights and well-being of women and children from all forms of violence and abuse, many of the affected persons are not aware of their rights or do not have the resources to pursue it.

And the few, who have the understanding of these rights, Sheila disclosed are scared of stigmatisation and threats from the perpetrators and the society in general.

According to Sheila, “it is for this reason that we seek partnership with a law firm with a track record for fighting for the vulnerable especially women and children.”

In his response, Dickson expressed his deep concern on the increasing cases of abuse against the female child and how the culture of silence is encouraging more perpetrators.

“It is even sad when the victims are from impoverished homes and cannot afford the legal fees to fight their assaulters.

“We will do everything within our capacity to provide legal assistance to these victims,” he said. Dickson stated that Goldcoast Developmental Foundation will serve as a mediator in championing this project by working with the police to speed up investigation, having sustainable partnership with certified hospitals to speed up medical examinations of victims/survivors of such violence in addition to prevailing on the state Chief Judge to set up a system that will speed up trials of such cases.

He added that the foundation will start a fundraising to get a home that will serve as a rehabilitation home for survivors to live in and start a new life especially for the girls.

“We will also work with FIDA through our law firm to provide pro bono legal services for victims of sex assault” he said. Dickson, however, stated that it is the responsibility of everyone in the society to stand up against perpetrators of sexual violence and encouraged women and children to speak out anytime they are under any form of violence and domestic abuse.”

Present at the event included the O/C gender unit of the Bayelsa Police Command whose office is directly in charge of gender violence cases.