By Palma Ileye
United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has strongly reiterated its support for on-going nationwide initiative by the Federal Government to combat against the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence being championed by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs.
This was disclosed in a press release issued yesterday by Ohaeri Osondu Joseph, Special Adviser, Media to the Minister of Women Affairs.
In the statement, the UNICEF Deputy Representative, Programs, Ms Rownak Khan speaking during a visit to the Minister of women Affairs, Barr Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, stated that the visit was arranged to acquaint the Minister with the risks and deprivations children experience in Nigeria, provide an update on the statutory role of the Women Affairs Ministry to promote the rights, general welfare of children and women, enhancing their ability to realize their full potentials, including the transformative actions currently undertaken in collaboration the UNICEF to improve the protective environment, strengthen systems to leave no child behind and accelerate actions towards the attainment of Sustained Development Goals 5, 8 and 16.
According to the UNICEF representative, the global body has structured areas of priorities to run between 2023 and 2024 which focuses on legal and programing frameworks, service delivery, capacity strengthening, evidence building, digital transformation and coordination and partnerships.
Speaking further, she disclosed that though there was a weak institutional capacity adding that, “a national survey to obtain administrative data indicates that there are well over 122,968 children (5,558 girls and 117,410 boys) known to be in detention facilities across 26 states in Nigeria between 2018 and 2022, urging that alleged offenders and survivors of violence require specialized services that are age and gender-sensitive to safeguard their rights and to enable them access quality response services.”
Similarly, she outlined the States with prevalent cases of sexual and gender-based violence such as Lagos, FCT, Ebonyi, Cross Rivers, Adamawa and Sokoto States, Female Genital Mutilation in Ebonyi, Imo, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Rivers, Ondo, Edo and Kwara States and Child marriage in Sokoto, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Yobe and Borno states, emphasizing the need for strong institutional framework and enforcement capacity to investigate and address sexual and gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage.
Responding, the Minister of Women Affairs, Barr Uju Ohanenye commended the UNICEF for remaining steadfast in its drive to improve on the wellbeing of women and children in Nigeria.
She stated that, “though several global experience abound on sexual and gender-based violence and other related social vices, there was need for UNICEF to review the Nigerian context and provide technical support to align with peculiar situations in the country.”
With specifics, she also reiterated the Ministry’s resolve to vigorously push to combat against female genital mutilation which has received the endorsement of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu under the Renewed Hope agenda, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Inspector-General of Police and the State Governors’ Forum.
She added that processes have being designed such that the whistle blowers, community-based awareness campaigns, media engagement, investigation and use of Mobile courts to prosecute and sanction culprits.
The Women Minister also disclosed her plans to work towards reviving local women meetings across the country into Cooperative Societies as part of measures to further empower women in Nigeria to engage in meaningful ventures that will enhance their economic capacities to support their husband and contribute meaningfully to national growth.