Gender-Based Violence: Are we ever going to get the desired change? – By Hyeladzira James Mshelia (Programs Associate)

“Madam if you like dey under this sun dey do training from morning till night if na rape issue, I go rape, my wife. Her body na my own”

I was utterly dump-founded, livid and startled. I was not sure if I heard right or if my mind was playing a fast one on me. Perhaps from the fatigue of trying to get a suitable motor Park in Enugu State to carry out our Project SABI motor park town-hall. 

I thought to myself that this man had some nerve to spew such distasteful words. How dare you openly admit that it is ok to forcefully have carnal knowledge of someone else. More so, your wife!
Statements like these, draw you into the reality of the appalling state of Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria and how these cases keep increasing in Nigeria despite all efforts to stem the tide. Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights, the World Health Organisation has stated.   Estimates by WHO indicates that globally about 1 in 3 (30 per cent) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Recently, the United Nations declared Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) as a ‘shadow pandemic’ while calling for urgent, comprehensive, and effective actions by duty-bearers to curb the menace.

What CODE and BQA are doing with support from OXFAM Voice to change the status quo 

Hyeladzira Mshelia CODEs Programme Associate giving a presentation on project SABI

To address these issues, Connected Development (CODE) and Boys Quarters Africa (BQA) with support from OXFAM Voice began a grass-root engagement approach with Men & Boys, on the “Project SABI” to directly impact and empower victims, and especially young people across FCT, Lagos and Enugu, with necessary information on their roles as responders using diverse reporting channels to mobilise mass voices. This project is aimed at seeking new approaches to tackle Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
I bet you are asking why men and boys right? Men and boys are key to promoting gender equality. The focus of this project is on engaging Nigerian men and boys as gender allies in their households and communities. We hope to bring together men and boys to challenge existing gender norms and plant new seeds of thought about the role of women in Nigerian society. Men and boys can shift existing gender norms by engaging with and understanding their privilege.

A driver lending his voice during our motor park town hall in Enugu State

Over the years CODE has led strategic campaigns that address issues affecting women and girls including gender-responsive budgeting, girl-child education campaigns and campaigns to eliminate all forms of violence targeted toward women and girls. I have been privileged to spearhead most of these gender campaigns but for obvious reasons, project SABI stands out.  This specific campaign is urging me to be even more relentless in my fight against Gender-Based Violence, more so, in an insane country like my dearly beloved. Nigeria has sworn to remain a truly complex nation whose growth is double-edged. As we grow in age and population so have we grown in all facets of crime and injustice. I am saddened by the trajectory of this nation and the lack of justice for almost everything and everyone. 

Remember how ​​Blessing Otunla’s unclad body was found in a brackish ditch in Iddo village, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital? How about the Nigerian gospel singer Osinachi Nwachukwu?  Was it not recently that a 22-year-old Oluwabamise Ayanwola, a promising fashion designer’s body was found after she went missing on February 26, 2022? Let us not forget that it has been almost two years since Uwa Omozuwa, a 22-year-old 100 level student of the University of Benin, was raped and killed inside a Redeemed Christian Church of God parish on May 27, 2020. 

You see, these barbaric acts have gone on for so long and I ask myself, Are we ever going to get the desired change? I have sisters and adorable nieces that I will detest if they made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Permit me to say ‘my tired is indeed tired’ 

However, It is time to take greater action therefore, I call on the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders to accelerate efforts to curb Sexual and Gender-Based violence in Nigeria. There is so much work to be done. A holistic and intentional approach by you and I will go a long way in mitigating this menace. Tell the person sitting next to you that it is never alright to rape/ molest anyone and of recent anything. Oops! I said it.

AboutHyeladzira James Mshelia

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