TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE BY WIFE OF THE GOVERNOR OF ABIA STATE: 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

Good afternoon Gentlemen.

I welcome you to this press briefing. We are addressing you today as a coalition of NGOs and Civil Society groups working in the GBV space, including FIDA, NCWS, and the Ministry of Women Affairs.  This event is holding in line with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The theme for this year is Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape. The 16 days of Activism begins from 25 November which is the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women and end on 1oth December which is the Human Rights Day.Globally, every organization that operates in the human rights space, is undertaking one action or the other to highlight the period. Violence against Women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or mutilated. It is a sad reality, that on a daily basis, women and girls around the world are still experiencing harassment and violence of all forms and types. Despite all the long years of chanting for gender equality, women and girls are still raped and battered, and girls are still mutilated and married off as children Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality. Both men and women experience GBV, but with current statistics, it is obvious, that women and girls are the major victims. GBV is a violation of the fundamental human rights of women and girls. The forms of Violence against women and girls include rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, dowry-related abuse, marriage by abduction, forced marriage, and child marriage. Violence against women and girls often impair their productivity, by reducing their contribution to the social, economic, and political development of their families and communities. The psychological effect of GBV has continually left imprints on the minds of the victim making them live beneath their potentials. Focusing on the theme of the year, rape is rooted in a complex set of beliefs, power, and control that continue to create a social environment, in which sexual violence is pervasive and normalized. It is no longer news that in recent events, the cases of rape has been on the hike. It is no longer men raping women; they are now raping girls, even girls of a few months old. 154 countries have laws against sexual harassment, but even where these laws exist, women and girls from all walks of life, still face sexual harassment every day. 15 million adolescent girls worldwide have experienced forced sex at some point in their life and only 1% of these numbers have reached out for professional help.  The reason women and girls are less likely to report sexual abuses are rejection, victim-blaming, and stigmatization. In recent times, more survivors have tried to speak up, which has put this issue of sexual violence in the spotlight, but the question still remains, have speaking up solved the issue? It is obvious that we need to elevate and take our actions to the next level. Today, we are convinced that there is still a lot to be done, beyond the chants, we need to revise our laws, domesticate where necessary and strengthen its enforcement.  Recall that last year, I under the auspices of the Vicar Hope Foundation, led a large coalition of civil society groups including NCWS, FIDA and many more to the Abia State House of Assembly to ask the House to give accelerated hearing and passage to the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law. Over the past several months I have sustained that action alongside my partners in the Ministry of Women Affairs, FIDA, NCWS, and other women organizations. Today I am happy that the proactive 7th Assembly is seriously working on the bill with a view to giving it a speedy passage. It is also pertinent to note that for several years’ efforts to pass the bill have been on snail slow speed until this coalition of civil society organizations came together, joined forces and also met a willing House of Assembly that puts the people first.   I use this medium to appreciate the 7th Assembly, led by Right Honourable Engr. Chinedum Orji for responding to our call and moving swiftly in response to filling the need. This shows that the House of Assembly is committed to the protection of the lives and rights of the people of Abia State and we as a coalition will continue to throw our unreserved support behind these legislative processes and our legislators. To support this effort as Vicar Hope Foundation, we are announcing a Gender-Based Violence Response Desk to complement efforts by partners and support groups. This desk will create referral pathways for reporting, counseling and managing GBV cases.Before I end, I want to call on members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm to join in the struggle to address Gender Based Violence. We need to put out issues of Gender Based Violence in the public space so that it can be seen in the right perspective. In addition, the Gender Based Violence demands responsible reportage. We need to tell stories of abuse correctly, and appropriately.  Finally, this year’s theme “Generation Equality” suggests we all have to come together, men and women, to raise consciousness and conversations to end all forms of Gender-Based Violence. We are conscious to note that GBV is faced by men and women, and that is why we are raising a community of bystanders, men, and women who may not be directly affected by abuse but are not silent about it.  Thank You.

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