By Debo Akinbami
The theme appears wrapped in near antique attire, though with fresh consequences. It is reaching us all with sore sobriety and calling to question our places in history, either as individual or whole. It confronts our collective indulgence of sully practices with new nerves and finds loud expressions in raw courage. While it may pass for a new narrative around a rather polemical persona, It is more about us – our social and mental health, and of course our image as a people that would either glow or gloom.
The media space has been replete with the name of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, Nigerian prominent cancer survivor and foremost gender parity advocate, lately, for a new consequence, an intervention in the mould of invention. The renown gender activist has introduced an SGBV- controlling device described otherwise as Yellow Card, to curtail the rising cases of sexual and gender offenses in Ondo State. The deal comes with a different fervour, and the imports are well expressed in a daunting task undertaken by a daring leadership and enabled by a character’s sternly resolve to liberate her kind.
For the author, there is no stopping. Betty likes to lead the way unto dreaded routes, to foray into paths unbeaten. She does this more any matter that would improve on humanity, especially that which bothers on a woman’s socioeconomic questions; and this is no exemption. In this instance, particularly, her innate loathing for vicious conducts would not indulge a destructive communal apathy and never to condone the perpetuation of such illicit acts.
Before this time, ideas have been raised around the world on how to deal with the prevalent and pervasive sexual and gender-based violence. Scholars, activists, movements and organisations continue to think up legal and scientific ways to deal with the malaise. Women for Women International, for instance, suggested educating self and others about gender-based violence, using voice on social media to bring awareness to SGBV and sponsoring a woman survivor of conflict and war as three things to do about gender-based violence. But events have shown that there is more to the warfare.
Betty knows that the battle has its barriers. She has identified silence as one. The ruinous culture of silence too has its aiders. Meanwhile, it is not uncommon to have victims suffer harmful sexual, physical, psychological, mental, and emotional abuses and keep mute. And when sufferers do not speak, the battle becomes difficult, if not impossible. Besides, there are identifiable cultural pretensions and conspiracies that find alibis for justifying the bestiary. Stereotypical threats also belly the bruises.
These cultural and stereotypical excuses have endured for too long to the extent that sexual and gender offenders are now emboldened and victims deterred daily from speaking up. At this rate, the bruises are bad and festering to the extent that the iconoclast Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu could no longer watch her kind defeated and condemned to silence.
Enabled by prolonged corporate indifference and victims’ protracted silence, sexual and gender violations have since soared. It is now a sad spate the rate at which our women are variously violated. Worse still, we all sit by and feign finesse while our parts are daily denigrated by bestial actors whose indiscretions to bruise hearts and homes. It is to the pains of the miserable victims that Betty Akeredolu has responded by pushing the cards out.
Borrowed from the sports parlance, the yellow card is delibrately designed to drive behavioural change in girls and women by prompting them to confront and report situations of abuse. The card should serve as a warning weapon against potential sexual and gender offenders and a munition of defense for a woman. With the card in hands, girls are supposed to exude new courage. They should henceforth handle sexual and gender violations as business unusual.
Bearing the various forms of SGBV abuses, it provides the holder who may hitherto be uncertain as to what constitutes sexual and gender-based violence with new knowledge so that she can now identify and situate abusive tendencies in proper perspectives.
The card also protects since girls can now warn off potential abusers by raising alarm with the card.There is a new sense of security in that girls can now use the card anytime they feel threatened by potential sexual and gender offenders.
With this intervention, help is now within reach for victims who hitherto felt helpless; victims can now get immediate help and justice. Card contains toll-free numbers that could be be reached anytime, and it is triggered as soon as a caller reaches out on cases of sexual and gender abuses. Ondo state now has emergency response team on sexual and gender-based violence. There is a coordinated response team in place to provide ready help with medicals, psychosocial support, relief from trauma or relocation.
As at the last count, over fifty thousand of the cards have been distributed to girls in the public secondary schools in the various parts of the state through the school counsellors who were purposely trained to handle SGBV cases. Needless to say feedback has been inspiring! That citizens and government agencies are now showing competitive support for the initiative in the interest of more female constituents shows that Ondo state is agreeing with Betty to rid the state of sexual and gender abuses. It is a proof of value addition.