BY: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to increase from nation to nation, so is the violence against women and girls across the globe.
This ugly and embarrassing scenario had brought untold hardship and stigma to millions of women and girls all over the world.
Worried by this rapid growing pandemic, the United Nations, European Union and other stakeholders have decided to set aside 16 days of Activism on violence against women and girls.
To achieve this, Spotlight Initiative in collaboration with the Federal Government and UNICEF organised a Webinar dialogue on “The Role of the Media in promoting accountability to end violence against women and girls “, for media practitioners across the country.
Stakeholders at the Webinar dialogue “charged Nigerian media to step up their advocaçy in ending violence against women and girls in Nigeria through their various mediums be it electronic, print, or social media networks” .
They noted that “violence against women and girls has come to a stage that the media must rise up and set an agenda through special reportage to check the increasing ugly trend in our society today”.
in his speech, the UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon disclosed that the UN has put in $500 million global investment to fight and carry advocaçy on violence against women and gender equality.
According to him “we will continue to provide the enabling environment for the implementation of our17 Development Goal as there is need to ” protect and empower women”.
Kallon reassured UN continous support to the Nigerian government as 43 percent of girls before the age 15 have suffered one form of sexual abuse or the other and “the public sector media must take the lead in educating the public on issues of violence against women and girls, bring to limelight the stereotypes of the society, take lead in collecting evidence to end violence”.
“The media, he added, must ensure an ethical reporting on gender based violence and use of vulgar language, work with all stakeholders to end violence against women and there is light at the end of the tunnel to address this menace”.
Also speaking, the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ketil Karlsen, noted that the time has come for everyone and the media to “break the culture of silence and speak out to help end violence against women. The media has a strong role to play, and must make commitment to ensure this issue remain on the front burner”.
Karlsen who was represented by the Head of Section Democracy in the Embassy, Mr. Clement Boutillier, maintained that ” the media houses have responsibility to be sensitive on the agenda. Together we can break the issue of silence and the time has come for us to invest on gender issues Carl the entire globe”.
Earlier, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pouline Tallen, represented by Mrs. Funke Ladipo, director women department in the Ministry, said “gender based violence remains serious threat to women and girls and can be controlled through risk factor and amplified occupancy of incidents by the media.
She noted that “during the period of COVID-19 experience violence against women was very high and if not addressed, it will lead to social and economic losses. The media can play a great role in reversing the trend and two to eight percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lost to it. Preventive violence can promote human growth and others” .
In her keynote address, Dr Olasumbo Ojebode, said 31 percent of women between the age of 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence during pregnancy and nine percent of children have experienced sexual violence and “the girl children even experience violence at home, so where is safe for them?”
Also worst are women with disability who suffer twice the same violence others experience and 36 percent of women suffer physical and sexual violence in the hands of their spouses due to culture of silence.
According to her, “there are many laws in the country like the Child Right Act of 2003, Protocol of the African Charter and others but implementation and enforcement of these laws is the main problem”.
The spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Garba Shehu, said “the Buhari government is committed to free media practice on and offline in freedom of expression but government is also concerned on national security especially on issues that will affect men, women and children. It is not acceptable for pervasive use of Internet in streaming abuse of children”.
Mrs Toun Okewole Sonaiya, one of the discussnts blamed the media for not pushing harder on advocaçy issues that concerns women and girls.
She retorted “journalists and others have not done enough to project the issues of violence against women and girls probably because “it does not bring in money. The media must make life uncomfortable for perpetrators and do reports continously to project issues of violence against women and girls else, the situation will remain where we are today. We need the speak out and break up the silence through more advocaçy reportage”.
The Webninar dialogue had over 150 participants nationwide,
The dialogue was held with 150 senior media practitioners from the public, private and civil society sectors on the role of the media in promoting accountability to end violence against women and girls in Nigeria.
The webinar highlighted the facts and realities of gender-based violence and explored the need for media’s increased participation in policy advocacy, negative social norms change and intensified engagement and action on social media to support ending violence against women and children in Nigeria.
“The media as change agents are critical both in terms of how violence against women and girls is reported, and how communities and governments are supported to raise awareness and implement programmes to end violence against women and girls, said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative”.
Participants at the webinar include media executives and owners, including those of media associations and organizations, news editors, reporters, feature writers, columnists, investigative journalists, programme producers, editors, executives, on-air personalities and social media influencers and, gender specialists, human rights activists, media enthusiasts, CSOs and development agencies.
The outcome of discussions will form the basis for a ‘deeper dive’ into specific roles the media can play in ending violence against women and girls in Nigeria during a lineup of media dialogues that will be implemented across the five + 1 intervention states of Adamawa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Lagos, Sokoto and the FCT.
The dialogue is part of activities lined up in the run-up to the annual, global “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,” which this year is focused on the role of the media in promoting accountability to end violence against women and girls.
The Spotlight Initiative is a global partnership between the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, in support of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. It was launched in September 2017 by the UN Secretary-General and the EU High Representative and Vice President (HRVP).
In Nigeria, the initiative envisions a Nigeria where all women and girls are free from violence and harmful practices.
“It is important to highlight that everyone in society has an important role to play in ending violence against women and girls and we all must work together across sectors to address the various aspects of violence against women and girls, said Dame Pauline Tallen, Honourable Minister of Women Affairs”.
She noted that “31% of Nigerian women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence, with 6% occurring during pregnancy”.
“Girls are more likely to experience both sexual and physical violence than other combinations of violence, with 1 out of 4 having experienced sexual violence and 1 in 5 experiencing their first incidence of sexual violence before the age of 13.Twenty percent of women and girls age 15-49 are circumcised before the age of 5 in Nigeria, and 18.5 percent of girls were married before the age of 15. Women and girls with disabilities are twice as likely to experience violence of any form.’
Breaking the silence on the issue of violence against women and girls, including rape and sexual exploitation, has encouraged more families to come forward and report cases of rape and other violence or abuse.
This year saw an alarming four-fold increase in multiple forms of violence against women and girls, especially physical, psychological, sexual and economic forms of domestic violence. This underscores the need to continue to fund, respond to, prevent the occurrence and collect robust evidence of violence against women and girls.