Women especially young women of reproductive age and girls in Nigeria are subjected to various forms of violence and their right to a life free of all forms of violence and discrimination is often considered contradictory to traditional, social and religious norms. This is even worsened during a conflict situation as they are more vulnerable. Because VAWG is normalized, it makes it difficult for women and girls to break the silence and the cycle of violence within and outside their homes.

In Nasarawa State, in particular, the conflict situation has heightened in the last 4 year with a high prevalence of VAWG. According to the NDHS 2013, 23% of women in Nasarawa had experienced physical violence. State and community responses are non-existent and access to recorded cases, difficult. There are also no structures at the community level that have the capacity to address these issues when they occur. In spite of these problems, individuals, households and communities do not have the capabilities to tackle the issue of VAWG due to a lack of understanding of the rights of women and girls to be free from violence and deep-rooted socio-cultural issues including negative gender norms that lead to the marginalization of women and girls.

Based on this reality, with support from French Embassy in Nigeria under the PISCCA Initiative, EVA launched the “Strengthening Community Response to Violence against Women and Girls” project in six communities (in both Nasarawa and Toto LGAs), Nasarawa states. The project aims to prevent VAWG, in particular, adolescent girls and young women by increasing the knowledge of their rights and addressing the gaps in the community response to issues of violence against them.

To achieve equitable communities, it is critical for women to live free of gender-based violence and discrimination and fully participate in decision making structures and processes at all levels, particularly in communities who experience conflict.

This project challenges negative norms that lead to the marginalization of women and girls and seeks to amplify the role of women and girls in conflict prevention and ensures that they have meaningful participation in community peace-building platforms. To achieve this, we address the root causes of VAWG which lies in the deep-rooted socio-cultural norms. We also employ the approach of community mobilization to challenge negative gender norms that lead to rights violation and increase awareness of rights among the communities to ensure that cases are reported and addressed. We also use open community meetings and community dialogues with different influencers and gatekeepers.

Additionally, consultations we held revealed that the Community Peace Committees are seen by community members as a male domain. This is due to negative community’s perception about women’s abilities, which is closely linked to the socio-cultural values and belief that women and girls have no role to play in resolving conflicts and increasing access to justice. And due to these societal norms, women and girls have a poor understanding of their rights and roles.

This project helps to build the capacity of existing Community Peace Committees (CPCs) to address and respond to cases of VAWG and pushes for the inclusion of women in the CPCs to ensure that the issues of VAWG and other rights issues are not side-lined.

To create an enabling environment that fosters and respects the rights of women and girls, men and boys, as well as older women, are engaged to uphold the rights of women and girls through dialogues and discussions on negative norms that lead to the marginalization of women based on gender. We also build the capacity of some responders at the LGA level including, Directors, Law Enforcement Agents, Judges, Religious leaders and Health Care Workers to be able to respond to cases confidentially.

Furthermore, the trained CPC members are supported to organise different community sensitizations in their communities for increased reporting of cases of violence- female genital mutilation, domestic violence, rape, child/early/forced marriages, etc.