Christian Aid (UK) Nigeria, a humanitarian and development organisation working to combat inequalities that promote poverty, has called on the government at all levels to protect and uphold women’s human rights defenders and activists towards preventing and ending gender-based violence in Nigeria as the world marks the 2022 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls.
Every year, the 16 days of activism reminds everyone of the persistence of the most widespread breach of human rights ever – violence against women and girls.
This past decade has seen the productive efforts of grassroots activists, women’s human rights defenders, and movements move strategies for ending violence against women higher on the political agenda than ever before in Nigeria. This is evident in the review and passage of laws that protect women in most of the states of the country.
However, the social, political, and economic impact of some life-changing events – such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Nigeria’s October 2020 End SARS crisis –threatens the few gains that have been recorded in this struggle as the country witnessed the exposure of deep structural inequalities and heightened occurrences of various forms of violence against women and girls.
It is especially worrisome when such violence extends to those whom the survivors of violence look up to for support and justice. We now see a common trend to see women defenders routinely targeted with harassment, hate speech, discrimination, dissemination of personal or intimate information, defamation, and other forms of online violence to silence and punish their public participation in social media. Besides the direct psycho-social effect of this on the rights defenders, it also sends a negative message to Survivors of violence, as well as upcoming women human rights defenders.
A shrinking civic space, especially for women and girls, will only take us back to the era of the intense culture of silence; an adversary that held many survivors’ hostages for too long.
A statement by the senior communications coordinator, Christian Aid (UK) Nigeria, Kehinde Afolabi said as an organisation committed to promoting gender and social inclusion, we will continue to publicly take a position against all forms of violence targeting women and girls.
“We stand in solidarity with all women rights defenders and do our part in resisting the rollback on women’s rights. Christian Aid (UK) Nigeria joins the global community to call for an end to all forms of gender-based violence and urges the Nigerian government and all duty bearers to prioritise the protection of women human rights activists who are at the forefront of fighting gender-based violence.
“We will unite with others to raise awareness on violence against women and girls in local communities and encourage all Nigerians to take a firm stand against violence,” the statement added.