BENIN CITY – The Edo First Lady, Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, her Kebbi State counterpart, Dr. Zainab Shinkafi Bagudu and human rights activist and founder of Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, have called for joint action by relevant stakeholders to end all forms of Gender-Based Violence in the country and prosecute all suspected sexual offenders.
They spoke at a public lecture organised by Women Arise and the United Nations Information Center to mark the commencement of 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls in Nigeria.
Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, who was guest speaker at the virtual summit, urged all stakeholders to work collectively with relevant government authorities, especially law enforcement agencies, to stem the tide of gender-based violence and uphold the rights of women.
With the theme, ‘Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect’, the event was held in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, marked every November 25 by the United Nations and its sister agencies.
Obaseki who called for more legislations and concerted efforts to fund, collect, respond and prevent gender-based violence, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about spike in incidents of violence against women as a result of confinements, school closure, unemployment and hunger, among others.
She noted that apart from legislations aimed at protecting women and girls in the state, the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration has embarked on a series of programmes and reforms to empower the girl-child and ensure the rights of women are upheld.
According to her, “In Edo State, there has been reduction in cases of rape and other cases of violence against women as we have been responsive, protecting the dignity and rights of Edo women.
“The government is working to end all forms of discrimination against women in the state and country. We will continue to pay special attention to all forms of reforms and policies to encourage economic empowerment of women, education, inclusion, access to loan and security and political participation.”
The first lady said Edo has launched the state’s Sex offenders’ Register and set up the Sexual Assault Referral Center (SARC) in Benin City, to prosecute all cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the state.
“We will continue to set up more SARCs with two more in Edo Central and Edo North Senatorial Districts and replicate the same across the state so that we have at least one in each local government area,” she added.
On her part, Mrs. Bagudu noted that it was time for stakeholders to move from talking to transformation through actionable plans.
Okei-Odumakin noted: “Act, start a movement. Rather than watch abuse happen, stand up, speak up, intervene in potentially harmful situations, or alert others for assistance.”
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. It takes place annually from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, Human Rights Day.