By Felix Khanoba
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concern over the level of violence against girls and women in Nigeria.
UNICEF made this known in a report made available to newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday ahead of the 25 years commemoration of Beijing
The report titled: ‘A New Era for Girls: Taking Stock on 25 Years of Progress,’ warned that much more needs to be done to protect the rights of girls.
The organisation said despite significant gains in education globally, violence against women and girls still remain very common.
“Globally, one in every 20 adolescent girls aged 15–19 years – around 13 million – has experienced forced sex, one of the most violent forms of sexual abuse women and girls can suffer.
“In Nigeria, one in four girls has suffered sexual violence. Yet, very few of them seek professional help, preferring to keep their abuse secret. In Nigeria, only 2 percent of girls aged 15–19 years who ever experienced forced sex sought help from professionals,” the report posited.
The report – and associated Generation Equality campaign – note that the number of out-of-school girls has dropped by 79 million in the last two decades worldwide, even as more girls became more likely to be in secondary school than boys.
Mr Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, said the country needs to do more to ensure girls are well protected.
His words: “Sadly, after 25 years, the world is still a very violent place for girls and women – including in Nigeria.
“But there are things we can do to change this – and we need to do them urgently. We need to invest in protection services and support programmes that give survivors of violence an opportunity to speak up and to heal.
“We need to work with local communities to change practices that make women and girls vulnerable to violence and abuse. And we need to speak to our children – girls and boys – to ensure they grow up knowing that such violence is unacceptable. Together, we can end violence against women and girls – and this is long overdue.”
The UNICEF report however expressed delight that despite the ongoing violence, some remarkable gains have been made in the 25 years since the Beijing Declaration.
The gains include global rise in girls enrolment in school – though in Nigeria, there is still a long way to go to ensure equality of education for girls, especially in the north-east, where 60 percent of out-of-school girls in Nigeria are located.