Faith Amos, 25, has been married to John Paul for about twelve years. These years have been a living hell as her husband, a bricklayer, uses her as a punching bag for the slightest excuse. Mr Paul blames her for not having four female children and no male child since they got married. In April, Faith had a miscarriage due to the severe physical attacks she received from her husband who chased them out of his house.
Against the advises of family and friends to continue enduring the physical and psychological torture, Faith sought help at non-governmental organisation. This led to the arrest of her abusive husband by the Police. The NGO also contacted others saddled with the responsibility of responding to cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). Faith and her four children have been moved to a shelter while the case is in court.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in three women have experienced one form of physical or sexual violence. About 55 percent of these women never sought help from anyone thereby contributing to the large number of unreported SGBV cases in Nigeria.
Through our interventions at Dinidari Africa Foundation, we have observed that most SGBV surviours lack information as to where to go and what to do when their rights are violated. We also noticed that most of these women are discouraged by friends, family members, traditional and religious leaders, etc from reporting their abusers or seeking help.
While conspiracy of silence poses a barrier to ending the menace of sexual and gender-based in Nigeria, a greater challenge is the lack of coordination on the part of responders.
As part of efforts towards solving this problem, Dinidari Africa Foundation in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) organised a an inter-agency workshop for SGBV responders to enhance collaboration.
The one-day workshop is part of activities under the partnership between Dinidari Africa Foundation and the CommonWealth Foundation tagged: “The Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Collaboration, Advocacy, Awareness and Protection Project (The CAAP Project).”
The event had in attendance participants from eighteen (18) agencies including the Police, National Orientation Agency (NOA), National Film and Video Censors Board, Federal Ministry of Justice, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). Others include the NHRC, Dorathy Njemanze Foundation, Legal Aide Council, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and so many others.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Director of Dinidari Africa, Ndi Kato, noted that there has been an increase in SBGV cases across the country since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kato blamed the rise in SGBV cases on prevailing cultural norms, poor awareness of the framework for reportage of crime, and shortcomings in the justice framework.
“Despite the high incidences of SGBV in Nigeria and the associated impacts on victims, SGBV victims in Nigeria have a low reportage and help-seeking behaviour. Only 32% of women who have been victims of violence sought help, and help was mainly sought from the victim’s own families,” she said.
“This is a result of prevailing cultural norms that discourage reportage of SGBV, poor awareness of the framework for reportage of crime, and shortcomings in the justice framework. Also, informal means of seeking help (i.e., through family and community heads) dampen the SGBV response outlook in Nigeria.”
While appreciating the Commonwealth Foundation for their support, she urged traditional and religious leaders as well as the media to tone-down on messages that prevent SGBV survivours from reporting or seeking help.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Tony Ojukwu Esq, highlighted the importance of the workshop adding that collaboration between the various SGBV responders in the country would help to stem the tide of violence against women and girls.
Ojukwu, who was represented by the Director, Women and Children Department at the NHRC, Harry Obey, noted that the NHRC had launched the Unsub Platform which links victims to the nearest responders, toll free lines among other interventions.
Effective inter-agency collaboration in SGBV response means that more women like Faith can easily seek help and get help in the event of an abuse or a rights violation.
This was the consensus at the end of the event.