UN, EU Take Message on SGBV, Harmful Practices to Traditional, Religious Leaders

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

The United Nations has taken its sensitisation drive towards the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and harmful practices in the country to traditional and religious institutions by organising a two-day workshop for both traditional and religious leaders in the country.

A workshop was organised for both traditional and religious leaders by UN Women in conjunction with European Union in Abuja between December 6 and 7 where selected leaders across the country are sensitised on the harms of SGBV and harmful practices.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the UN Women representative, Ms. Beatrice Eyong, who represented the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Matthias Schmale, told the participants that: “Your presence here is a testament to your commitment to our joint agenda to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. Together, through the EUN-UN joint Spotlight Initiative, we have made great strides.”

She said: “In addressing harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, money wife and other harmful practices, we are seeing a shift in attitudes and in some cases, the total abandonment of these practices.

“For example, the abolishment of the practice of ‘money wife’ by the clan head, council of chiefs and all the village heads in Becheve community in Obanliku LGA. This is highly commendable and shows that where there is a will, change can be made. This is alongside the backdrop of 32 states having passed the Violence Against Person’s Prohibition (VAPP) Act.”

Eyong noted that: “Traditional and religious leaders continue to be the mouthpiece for the movement to eliminate violence. Indeed, in the first phase of the Spotlight Initiative, we observed over 200 religious and traditional leaders engaged in advocacy to increase their own knowledge and that of their communities, on issues of harmful social norms and violence against girls. The statistics remains however that FGM is at 25 percent prevalence despite the practice being outlawed by the VAPP Act.”

She lamented that 33 percent of women and girls have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, insisting that: “One woman is one too many.

 “It is imperative therefore that we accelerate efforts to address the root causes of gender-based violence (GBV) and harmful practices (HP),” revealing that: “UN Women has invested in landmark research to highlight linkages between customary and formal law.”

Eyong noted that: “The findings of this research have informed the content of this workshop and provide a strong case for elimination of violence whether in the formal or customary court. There is no longer the excuse of ‘culture’ in defence of violence and harmful practices.”

“I wish to commend the Convener-General, the leadership of the Council of Traditional Leaders of Africa and all members for paving the way for Nigeria and indeed the African continent in this regard. “To this end, the United Nations through the UN Women and other Spotlight Implementing agencies will continue to advocate for local ownership of the front-line service centres to ensure that survivors of FGM and those at risk of this practice receive the protection, access to justice and support that they deserve.”

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