The Executive Director of Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre (MAMA Centre), Chioma Kanu, has described as “paramount”, the involvement of school girls in public outcry against Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria.
She made this known at a one-day Sensitisation of Secondary School Girls on Gender-Based Violence in commemoration of upcoming International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on Saturday in Abuja.
The exercise held at Regina Pacis College had in attendance over 600 participants comprising Junior and Senior Secondary School girls, School Representatives, Civil Society groups and media.
According to her, the sensitisation aimed at educating and enlightening girls at Secondary School levels on incessant violation, harassment and abuse, while opening them up to various preventive measures and existing platform to seek redress and demand justice.
She said: “Involvement of school girls in public outcry against Gender-Based Violence is paramount to create a formidable voice demanding adequate policy sanctions, and community attention and appropriate justice on the incessant girl child violations and abuses at all levels in Nigeria.
“While it is estimated by UNESCO that 246 million girls and boys are harassed and abused at school every year with girls being particularly vulnerable, school-related Gender-Based Violence prevent millions of girls from reaching their academic potential across the world.”
Kanu lamented that Gender-Based Violence manifests in severe health and psychological effects of earlier child marriage that subsequently hampers socio-economic attainment of child bride and renders her unproductive with minimal earning capacity.
She added “Massive sensitisation of school girls in commemoration of the International Day on Elimination Violence against Women is paramount to create public awareness on the plights and concerns of girl child and amplify under-reported cases of abuses and violence at all levels.
“Deliberate delayed adoption and transmission (into law) of the Child Right Act in many states since its passage in 2003 exposes girl child to early marriage resulting in poor cognitive and socio-economic achievement as well as identified life-threatening illnesses like Vesico-vaginal Fistula (VVF), Anaemia, High Blood Pressure, Premature Birth, Malnutrition, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Post-partum depression (PPD), and even suicide.”
She urged appropriate policy attention to the effective rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration programmes through medical, psychological and legal services for the survivors at all levels.
The Executive Director called for adequate policy response in institutionalizing proactive measures and enabling reporting system as well as well-informed judicial interpretation of processes and laws to effectively sanction offenders and avert recurring incidence at all levels.
She demanded prompt adoption and full implementation of Child Right Act to secure them from physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, including sexual abuse, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and rapid adoption and full implementation of Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill by all State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria, as a demonstration of sincere commitment by the State Governments to secure health, emotional and physical well-being of girls in the country.
She further called for full implementation of Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act with sincere political will to punish offenders, while urging more independent judiciary to constructively interpret cases and impose sanctions without fear, intimidation or favour; prompt reformation of discriminatory laws and policies against women and girl child with demonstrated community support at all levels.
Also, speaking during the Sensitisation, School Guidance Counsellor, Regina Pacis College, Mrs. Betty Omang, explained that sensitisation of girls across educational walls on International Day on Elimination Violence against Women will loosen critical discussions with revealing experience as well as existing reporting platforms for appropriate actions and justice.
“The challenges of Gender-Based Violence are also not unconnected to girls isolated in private homes as domestic workers, who suffer psychological, physical, and sexual abuse with resultant depression, abortion and life-threatening infections.
“Anytime a girl feel uncomfortable around an uncle or aunty, parents must be attentive and devise prompt intervention to ask genuine questions and ensure the affected girl, in case of suspected violation is taken rehabilitation with immediate effect to avert potential damage to her emotion and psychology, while contacting relevant authorities for appropriate justice,” she advised.
The School School Guidance Counselor recounted that women at childbearing age are on several occasions marginalised in various appointments, promotions and remunerations at workplaces for their maternal responsibilities. This according to her should not be allowed and encouraged as every woman deserves a similar opportunity like male counterpart to reach her full potential in life.
Mrs. Omang also called on the United Nations to look into the reported cases of paedophiles who abuse boys at all levels.