Making all girls live a violence-free life
Every year for the past 25 years, on 11th of October, the world commemorates International Day of the Girl Child for advocacy to improve public awareness on issues like gender-based violence, child marriage, access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services, and female genital mutilation that disproportionately affect women and girls. This year’s theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable”, celebrates the achievements of girls since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a global issue with staggering statistics that are now too familiar. Some studies suggest that 1 in 3 women will experience some form of physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. VAWG has shown to have some lifelong effects on the SRH of survivors including, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, fistula, and in some cases, mental disorder. This informed the commemoration bearing in mind VAWG.
Celebrating girls must go beyond one day! More efforts must be put on the welfare of girl-child to ensure they live a life of total health and well-being, free from all forms of violence. To commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child 2019, Education as a Vaccine (EVA) with support from UNFPA Nigeria organised a one day sensitization on sexual and gender-based violence with in-school adolescents and young girls from GSS Kwali, GSS Yangoji, GSS Dangara, GSS Pai and GSS Yaba, all in Kwali Area Council, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The program featured activities that enlightened the girls on issues around violence and empower them with information that could help them make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
According to Eno-Obong Ekwere, EVA’s Program Coordinator, “empowered girls want to know more”! The girls were taught on how to exercise their human rights, manage puberty and the body changes that come with, including menstruation and how to manage it.
In Nigeria, there is a culture of silence with regards to reporting any case of VAWG. This is because of shame and stigma often suffered by the survivors. Sexual abuse in schools is rife; beyond incessant cases of sex for grades in tertiary institutions, there are instances of male teachers’ molestation of their female students in secondary schools. The 118 girls sensitized were encouraged to share experiences of violence they or someone they knew have experienced to encourage and facilitate opening up and ensure solidarity.
This session was an eye-opener to how many of the girls wanted to know about the steps to take when a teacher solicits for sex from a student with threats of failure if she refuses the advances of the teacher. To help with these issues, participants were counselled about the usefulness of reporting and provided with pointers on how to navigate the reporting mechanisms available to them.
“A friend of mine told me she was raped on her way to a lesson class by a guy she knew. She was scared to tell her mum because she’s not close to her and was afraid of what her mum will do”, Nwajideobi Happiness, 17 years, GSS Dangara shared her friend’s ordeal.
At EVA, we want and work for all girls to be free from abuse and live a safe and dignified life. The ripple effects will reduce the rate of school drop-out; decrease gender-based violence including harmful traditional practices, and improve quality of life for them.
Written By: Inalewgu Onche