Bisi Fayemi
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Nigeria’s forum of First Ladies kick start action against sexual, gender-based violence

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Worried by the recent spike in rape cases and violence against women, states’ First Ladies have lent a strong voice to the call for a state of emergency in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence in the country.

To this end, they have set up a committee comprising First Ladies from the six geo-political zones for the war against the menace.
The committee, headed by Mrs Bisi Fayemi, has Mrs Folake Abdulrazaq of Kwara State as Secretary while the Chairpersons of the Northern and Southern Governors’ Wives Fora, Dr Amina Abubakar Bello and Mrs Betsy Obaseki would lend their support to the process.
 
In a communique after their webinar signed by the First Lady of Ekiti State, Mrs Fayemi, the group expressed serious concern about the recent spike in cases of violence against women especially rape.
The governors’ wives noted that rape had become “disturbingly rampant and more evident” during the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to them,  the unsavory development informed the virtual meeting of the First Ladies to appraise the present situation and evolve ways to check the alarming rate of sexual violence against women and girls and indeed all forms of violence against women.
They agreed to harmonise efforts and action aimed at curbing the menace in the country by collaborating and sharing best practices.
They also noted that very few cases of sexual violence in Nigeria end up in convictions and therefore,  resolved to become more involved in seeing that justice is done for survivors of sexual violence.
The first ladies said: “We agreed to amplify the advocacy on sexual and gender-based violence on an ongoing basis.
“We also agreed to inform the Nigerian Governors Forum of all that has been discussed in order to get governors involved in the area of enacting laws to punish offenders.
“We noted the calls by various concerned organisations to declare a state of emergency on sexual and gender-based violence and we would like to add our voices to such demands.
“It was observed that very few cases of sexual violence in Nigeria end up in convictions. The First ladies therefore resolved to become more involved in seeing that justice is done for survivors of sexual violence.
“It was further noted that several States in the country have not domesticated relevant legislation to safeguard women and children from violence and very few States have a Sex Offenders Register.
” It was agreed that advocacy efforts will be intensified to ensure that legislation and implementation of such laws can be used to combat gender-based violence.
“We the First ladies of the 36 states of the federation have resolved to work assiduously with a range of stakeholders to break the culture of silence which has so far meant that perpetrators are not brought to justice because the parents and or family members of the victims and the victims themselves are prevailed upon not to report these cases. The First Ladies were unequivocal that this must stop.”
They promised to provide shelter and safe houses in the various states for women in distress, as well as step up sensitization and support in safe spaces.
They stressed the need for a reorientation of the menfolk on the evil called sexual violence.
“It was further resolved that boys will be tutored as well on what constitutes sexual violence and men will be encouraged to lend their voices to the various anti-GBV campaigns going on.”

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