Speech at Rattawu Dinner Event


07 June 2020

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Gender based violence is no respecter of age, class or education. Whilst education and social standing might give women more choices, the huge burden of cultural and societal expectations continues to wear women down into submission. Experts on Violence against Women will tell you that there are three main forms of Violence against Women:


Physical: Beatings, acid attacks, torture, kidnapping, trafficking, harmful traditional practices such as dangerous widowhood rites, disinheritance, Female Genital Mutilation, witch hunts, imposition of dress codes, forced seclusion, and others.


Sexual: Rape, incest, indecent assault, sexual extortion and exploitation, marital rape, child marriage, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, baby factories, virginity testing, and ritual rape.


Psychological: Intimidation, sexual harassment, institutional discrimination, neglect, verbal abuse, abandonment, stalking, cyber stalking and abuse, isolation from friends and family, denial of livelihood opportunities, lack of voice in decision making.


If a woman or girl has experienced any of these, it can be said that she is a victim of violence. Conventional statistics put victims of one or a combination of these forms of violence at 1 out of 3 women. Why should we care about Violence against Women? We should care because it destroys women’s lives. It leaves women scarred and scared for the rest of their lives. It erodes self-esteem and confidence.  It diminishes the capacity of women to fulfill their full potential. It destroys families and communities. It affects our economy. It increases HIV/AIDS rates, transmission of STDs, serious health conditions, commercial sex work and numbers of people suffering from mental health disorders. Women who are victims of violent sexual crimes are afraid to report for fear of stigma, blame and rejection. As in many other parts of the world, when the cases are reported, it takes so much effort to get a conviction, the process leaves the victims feeling assaulted all over again. When there is no justice, they do not get closure and the healing process takes so much longer.


For us to understand Violence against Women, we need an appreciation of the structural and underlying causes which feed this menace from generation to generation and which creates an almost unbreakable cycle of oppression. We all grow up in societies firmly entrenched in patriarchal norms and values  which influence all the social, cultural, political, economic, educational and religious institutions around which our lives are structured. It is these institutions, into which we are all socialized, that determine the value and worth of women and girls. As long as these institutions remain bastions of male dominance and control, the empowerment of women will continue to be severely limited.


The good news is that over the years, this cycle of oppression has been challenged, and significant gains have been made. Thanks to the relentless advocacy of generations of women’s rights activists and human rights advocates, gender equality and women’s empowerment is no longer a strange concept. Women are today better educated than they were in the past, they play key roles in the formal and informal economy, they are more politically visible, and there are many role models who have blazed trails and broken barriers for other women.


However, in spite of all these gains and advancements, the status of women in our communities remains a precarious one. Cultural, social and religious institutions have not been transformed enough to provide women with the dignity and respect they deserve. Gender based violence continues to rise, and the inadequate investments in improving the livelihoods of women have led to the feminization of poverty. With this has come the attendant consequences –  an overall diminished capacity for women and girls to achieve their full potential.


My submission therefore, is that if we are committed to ending, or at least minimizing Violence against Women and Girls, we should be prepared to engage in challenging and transforming all the institutions and processes which continue to undermine the progress of women and girls, regardless of their age, class and social standing



  1. Address structural and underlying causes of violence against women
  • Institutions which predetermine the status and roles of women should be redefined. Educational, religious, cultural and social spaces need to be sites of empowerment and transformation, not tools for the abuse of women
  • We need to stop fuelling practices, beliefs and stereotypes that undermine the physical and emotional well-being of women and girls. All harmful traditional practices which minimize the personhood of women should be avoided. Their time has passed. Widow abuse, FGM, child marriage, male preference, disinheritance of women and so on, are not compatible with the doctrine of inalienable human rights.
  • Gender equality continues to remain a priority. Women’s economic empowerment and their full and equal participation in public and political life are vital for addressing the structural causes of violence against women and girls.
  • Parents should raise their daughters with a healthy dose of self-respect and self-esteem. Girls and boys should be raised with an understanding of equal responsibilities, obligations and mutual respect
  • Parents, especially mothers, should be wary of how your daughters are looked after in your absence. Listen to your daughter if she tells you about inappropriate behavior and take action immediately.
  • Families of victims should not accept the ‘Rape and Beg’ syndrome. It fuels impunity and does not bring closure.
  • Boys and men need a new understanding and definition of masculinity. Our societies need strong men who can be providers, carers and nurturers of values that embody respect and accountability. There should be no place for those who derive their power from the abuse, exploitation and intimidation of women and girls.
  • Marriage is a partnership which thrives on love, fear of God, mutual respect, trust and commitment. Parents, religious leaders, families, and friends should STOP making marriage sound like an iron- gated prison for women from which there is no escape, and which has to be endured till the day they literally die from abuse.


  1. Provision and implementation of strong legal and policy frameworks 

As mentioned above, there have been some attempts made to address violence against women in Nigeria, through the adoption of relevant laws at federal and state level.  However, implementation and enforcement of these laws remains woefully inadequate, creating the basis for a pervasive culture of impunity. We still have significant gaps and challenges, and we should all be concerned about our lack of institutional capacity to enforce laws and policies. Inadequate implementation frameworks, lack of reliable data, lack of financial, technical, material and human resources, lack of cohesion and coordination, insufficient analysis and research, lack of continuity, and much more, make implementation extremely difficult.


  1. Synergy of multi-sectoral and inter-agency services

A key challenge in the implementation of strategies to prevent violence against women or to support and rehabilitate survivors, is the lack of inter-agency collaboration and capacity. Without these, efforts to address this issue, no matter how well meaning, will not be sustainable. The following issues should therefore be addressed:

  • Inter-agency collaboration to provide counselling, pyscho-social support, therapy and rehabilitative services for survivors of gender based violence. We badly need competent health care services, counselling and therapy facilities, well-resourced shelters and half-way houses, and skilled personnel all working together with a common goal.
  • There are many civil society organisations, women’s organisations, religious and social groups who have played a role in addressing violence against women in various capacities. There is however a need to work together to exchange information and identify mutual strengths, gaps, overlaps and areas of collaboration, to avoid working at cross purposes.
  • One of the greatest impediments to success is the pervasive culture of impunity. Our law enforcement agencies and criminal justice system need to play a more active role in this, because with things as they are now, chances of securing convictions in cases of sexual assault are very slim. When cases fizzle out due to a combination of lack of forensic evidence, lack of commitment on the part of law enforcement, indifference of the judiciary and pressure from the families and associates of suspects, this prevents other victims of sexual assaults from coming forward, and leaves perpetrators with a feeling of invincibility, paving the way for future attacks on other victims.
  • Ekiti State needs a one stop GBV Center that will ensure provision of a broad range of services to survivors of GBV. All agencies who are the first to deal with victims of sexual assault such as the police and health care providers, should have the capacity to handle cases with the utmost sensitivity, there should be appropriate tools to collect forensic evidence such as Rape Kits, and those who have this training need to be kept within the system for as long as is feasible.
  • The media has played a key role in addressing issues of violence against women and girls, and many stories carried by various media institutions have led to public outrage and action. However, there is still a lot of work to be done with the media in this regard. Training and sensitisation on how to report stories of violence and abuse, how to protect the identities of survivors, and consistent follow-up to expose conspiracies and acts of impunity is very important. Investigative journalism is becoming a dying art in this country, and this is one of the ways in which the media can support this agenda.


  1. Community Engagement
  • All our best intentions will amount to nothing if communities do not own the issue of violence against women and girls. We have to make the necessary investments in sensitization and awareness raising to make everyone a stakeholder in this issue. Every abused woman or girl is someone’s mother, daughter, wife, sister, and friend. Communities, especially in rural areas, should be sensitized to work with relevant bodies on a range of intervention strategies such as mediation, counselling, reporting incidents of abuse, legal literacy, aiding the criminal justice system, and providing a strong support network for survivors of abuse. Communities should not take laws into their hands, but they should be prepared to support the implementation of laws and not obstruct justice which is what happens in many instances.
  • We need to work closely with our traditional rulers and make them partners in progress. Some traditional rulers are keen to uphold positive cultural values and frown on acts of violence against citizens. They can be encouraged to persuade their subjects to shun harmful traditional practices. We should try as much as possible to seek allies amongst them. There are also groups of female chiefs (both traditional and honorary) in some of our communities who are seen as role models for other women and who command respect. They too can be coopted to support our community based advocacy efforts. The many women’s associations, networks and age-grade unions should also make this part of their agenda. The time has come for us to be our sister’s keeper and not the ones mounting surveillance on other women, turning ourselves into foot soldiers in the army of patriarchal oppression.
  • Our religious institutions have a vital role to play in supporting these issues. It is very sad to note that some religious leaders perpetrate and perpetuate acts of violence against women and children. We need all religious bodies to take a firm stance against gender based violence, and work with their congregations to provide the necessary support, in ways which do not continue to endanger the lives of women and children.
  • There is a lot of work that needs to be done to draw in men as allies in the efforts to address Gender based violence.



For this agenda to be actualized, we need one critical issue – strong political will. Without political will, we will not see any traction on any of these proposals. Political will is what will determine the level of financial, technical and material investments in eradicating gender based violence. Political will leads by example and models the way for a culture of impunity to end.

Between October 2010 and October 2014, there was demonstrable political will in Ekiti State for the empowerment of women and a culture of zero tolerance for violence against women and girls:

  • Ekiti State became the first state to domesticate the National Gender Policy
  • The Gender Based Violence Prohibition Law was signed in November 2011
  • The Family Court was established in 2012
  • A Shelter and Rehabilitation Center for women was opened in 2013
  • The Equal Opportunities Law was signed in December 2013.
  • The GBV Law made provision for a Survivor’s Fund, which helped support over 150 survivors of violence to rebuild their lives.
  • A Management Committee to implement the law was in place, and this committee did successful high level advocacy with the Police, Judiciary, tertiary institutions, healthcare providers and traditional rulers.
  • A Sex Offenders Register was opened in 2014 and reactivated in 2019 by the Ministry of Justice.


I am pleased to inform you that we intend to continue to make Ekiti State a place where there is zero tolerance for all forms of gender based violence. As we call for more political will to end violence against women, we should say, Enough is Enough. How many more of us need to die? How many more need to be kidnapped, raped, tortured, maimed and abused? For how long do we want to continue blaming the victims? Back to changing the story. Sometimes what is needed is a kind word, empathy, an intervention, courage and sacrifice. Remember the statistics- 1 in 3. It could be you. It could be me.


Thank you.

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