From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Stakeholders, including the Police, Health sector, Ministry of Justice and Civil societies over the weekend came together to make a policy dialogue that will end gender based violence in Rivers state.
The critical stakeholders met at a multi stakeholder policy dialogue on Gender Based Violence response, organized by the Centre for Environment and Human Rights Development (CEHRD), on possible move to end GBV in communities in the state.
It would be recalled that during the lockdown as a means of checking the spread of coronavirus in the state, their were reported cases of gender based violence, especially coming from rural communities.
During the above period, gender based violence did not only affected women, but there were also cases where women were the violators of these violence, some were reported killing their husbands while many house helps suffered in the care of their madam.
Speaking with The AUTHORITY at the meeting, Chief Constance Meju, Board Chairperson of CEHRD, narrated that “This programme is an outcome of earlier training programmes of service providers for victims of gender based violence. CEHRD had trained the Hospital Management team and 40 police officers serving on the Human Rights and gender desk, because you know they are the front liners of gender based violence.
“We found that the success in the drive against gender based violence can only be achieved by collaboration of the two bodies working together. You know that gender based violence increases with economic stress. You hear them say one in every three women have been violated and the incident of lockdown shows even women becoming violators. Some women have killed their husbands in the north and in the south.
“The essence of this policy dialogue is to bring together these people so that with civil societies to faction out legislations that will work, frameworks, government policies, like gender sensitivity, empowerment of women, setting up special centre where the lawyer, doctor, the health workers will be when a victim comes, he gets all necessary attention so that the evidence to convict the violator can be easily gotten.
“Some people, because of the culture if silence, because of poverty, stigmatization do not really pursue violation. Some from pressure, some from inability to pay transport for appointment with the police they pull out.
“We have been able to achieve a certain level of understanding because everybody has heard the police complaint, inadequate funding. The police human rights and gender desk needs adequate funding to be able to address these issues. And also to equip hospitals”.
CEHRD board chairperson noted the need for more police presence in the communities, stressing that
“In recent report by Niger Delta Dialogue, raised an issue that insecurity rate in the state is becoming alarming, communities are boiling and most people are now forced to live in the city.
“So, government needs to fight insecurity, government needs to look at ways to getting women empowered so that they have economic power to step out of abusive relationship”.
She urged that “the society to stop vilifying the victims, shame the violators, condemn their acts to gender abuse so there will be peace in the society, women have great influence on the society”.
On his part, Dr David Vareba, CEHRD’s Head of if Human Rights and Governance, added that “The policy dialogue was about bringing all the critical stakeholders of gender based violence to brainstorm on how to reduce GBV.
“The reason prosecution of gender based violence has not been very easy is because the critical stakeholders rather than working collectively have been working in beats.
“These stakeholders have been bringing out ideas on how to deal with GBV and the hospital can establish evidence on any reported case”.
In her presentation, Mrs Ngozi Odukwe-Ighosevbe, Rivers state chairperson, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), warned that the rising trend of GBV is a huge threat to the development cooperation of any nation.
Mrs Odukwe-Ighosevbe said “The government should as a matter of urgency start preparing Gender Responsive Budgets that will take into consideration the differential impact of budget on GBV issues”, adding that the state government of any nation has the primary responsibility for addressing gender based violence.