The wife of Ondo State Governor, Arabinrin Betty-Anyanwu Akeredolu reiterated the need for creation of a special agency for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence cases where victims would get adequate attention.
She also called for special budget and vote of money for the agency in order to sustain it beyond one administration.
Arabinrin Akeredolu who made the call during a panel discussion on “Community Level Response to SGBV-Challenge and Opportunities”, at the 6th Network conference of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs), held at the Abuja International Conference Centre.
She noted that victims of SGBV suffered in silence due to the level of stigmatization and shame but establishment of a special centre for them to visit, would encourage them to voice out and give them succour.
According to her, SGBV shouldn’t be treated with levity, hence, the reason she would ensure that the agency is established in Ondo State to accommodate victims for rehabilitation.
Highlighting the steps taken by her office at tackling the menace, Mrs Akeredolu disclosed that an emergency response team centre and toll-free number in Ondo State had been set up, including the provision of a Yellow Card for school girls as a preventive strategy to stop the menace.
“I am bothered as a woman and mother; we can’t fold our hands and watch our girls defiled. In some cases, the victim is murdered, we got to stand up and make sure that we galvanise action in our different states so that we can end this violence against women.
“Gender-Based Violence is treated with levity due to our patriarchal system where women are seen as second class citizens. We have started on a good foundation by setting up the emergency response centre in Ondo State and when we get back, the first assignment is to ensure that the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, VAPP, is passed into law.
“And as for the SARCs, definitely we have to get one, we need it because we have victims that are looking for places for succour and that is what SARC should provide”. She said.
She emphasised that most victims of SGBV were residents in communities, therefore, awareness should be taken there.
Earlier in her welcome address, the chair of SARCs in Nigeria, Prof Joy Ezeilo noted that the centre started in Nigeria in 2013 as a means to break the culture of silence and promote accountability.
According to her, SGBV is not a topic that people freely discussed but the presence of 29 SARC in 17 states o had helped to pursue so many cases and secured justice for the victims.
Prof. Ezeilo while addressing the theme of the conference, “Reporting, Response, and Accountability for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence”, described SGBV as a pandemic which impunity and lack of accountability stand as obstacles to achieve the desired results against its elimination.
She noted that the conference was sponsored by the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), and funded by the European Union and the British council to mark the 16 days Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
The ECOWAS and EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ketil Kalson described the conference as a remarkable step by SARC, and stressed the need for Political will to end SGBV.
He affirmed that the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the rate of SGBV among vulnerable people, while advocating access to information and justice for victims.
The wife of Ekiti State Governor and Chair of Nigerian Governors Wives Against Gender-Based Violence, NGWA-GBV, Erelu Bisi Fayemi who moderated the panelists, lamented that offices of First Ladies were being treated as SARC centres for cases of SGBV, and charged states that were yet to establish it to do so as soon as possible.
She noted that to have an effective SGBV’s response, traditional and religious leaders who were gatekeepers and stakeholders in the society, must be engaged.
According to her, economic empowerment for women would avail them more choices while experiencing domestic violence, and thereby called for the provisions of survival fund by state governments for victims.
Story By Mary Agidi