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Child Marriage, FGM: Need For Strong Partnerships, Bold Actions

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On the margins of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, a high-level side event on “Accelerating the elimination of harmful practices to reap the demographic dividend in Africa” convened Member States, civil society, youth and development partners to discuss decisive measures to eliminate child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) across the continent.
Often seen as traditional and cultural practices, female genital mutilation, and child, early and forced marriages are persisting human rights issues that affect women and girls in every region of the world. One in every five girls is married before reaching age 18, and more than 200 million women and girls alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where FGM is most common. According to recent UNFPA data, as many as 68 million girls globally may be at risk of FGM by 2030.
United Nation Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed joint programming and the need to address poverty and bolster women’s economic empowerment. UN Women has worked with UNFPA and UNICEF to develop policy guidance and a training module on gender equality and female genital mutilation, which can be used by development practitioners working toward eliminating FGM in places where it’s most prevalent.
UN Women is also partnering with UNICEF and UNFPA in the second phase of the Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.
According to Mlambo-Ngeuka, “Our particular interest is to support women’s economic empowerment so that parents don’t marry off children because they think that it means economic security for them; we can find ways of making them sufficiently economically empowered that they do not have to depend on this.”
The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, a multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations, which focuses on ending harmful practices and promoting sexual and reproductive health in its programming in Africa, is another promising initiative that’s strengthening the collaboration among relevant actors, including national governments.
“We see this as a human rights issue, but also as an economic issue,” said Darren Welch, Director of Policy of the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom. At the individual level, child marriage leads to girls dropping out of school and in one study, early marriage was estimated to lead to the drop of nine per cent of lifetime earnings, something that economies cannot afford.”
Jaha Dukureh, UN Women Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa and a survivor-activist, supports UN Women’s advocacy to end FGM and child marriage in Africa, with a special focus on mobilizing youth. She pointed out that when it comes to ending FGM and child marriage, the people that sit at the table to discuss these issues are usually not young and have not been through the ordeal.
Dukureh said “They are talking about us and for us, and we become a footnote in their research.But I think we have changed that in the last five years,” “The only way we are going to achieve change is by allowing young people [to engage and participate], especially within the continent of Africa. It is about how we elevate their voices and not suppress them. All we are asking for is to be given a seat at the table, and not just because we are young so that you can check that box, but because you believe that we can make a difference.”
In an effort to accelerate progress, the Big Sisters Movement under the NGO Safe Hands for Girls, founded by Dukureh, is organizing an African Leadership Summit on Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage, in Dakar, Senegal planned for later this year. The Summit, first of its kind, aims to mobilize a powerful and broad alliance of African Heads of State, civil society leaders, youth, religious and customary leaders, media and other influencers to take bold and decisive actions to ban FGM and dedicate specific budget allocations to implement existing laws and policies.
Petrider Paul, member of the African Union Youth Advisory Council, also stressed the importance of engaging youth in efforts to change behaviours. “It is a pity we do not invest in young people in a more sustainable way,” “These are the future parents, the future government leaders, these are the future fathers. If young people [are] able to change the mindset of [other] young people and be the voice for the voiceless, it’s something that can…end child marriage and FGM.”
UNFPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, highlighting the importance of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, education and information that is age-appropriate and in a language that girls can understand. This information needs to reach not just girls, but their brothers, fathers and their communities.
“Girls have to be given a voice to claim these rights.”. “That girl who is running for her life from FGM is my hero. Girls who are defending their sisters against the practice – my hat’s off to them.
Making sure that youth are leading the way forward is at the heart of UN Women’s social mobilization efforts to commemorate the 25thanniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the blueprint for women’s rights worldwide.
Mlambo-Ngeuka is Executive Director, United Nations Women.

 

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

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Women

‘It Is Time To End Violence Against Women’

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While pervasive, gender-based violence may seem to appear inevitable in our own clime, African Women Lawyers, Rivers State Chapter, believe that it can and must be prevented. To them, stopping this violence starts with believing survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches that tackle the root causes, transforming harmful social norms, and empowers women and girls.
With women and girls living in danger around the world owing to conflict, climate-related natural disasters, food insecurity and human rights violations, which in turn exacerbate violence against women, this great body of women lawyers have decided to raise their voice against all shades of violence against women whether it be domestic or official
In pursuant of their aims and objectives, AWLA commemorate land mark dates set by the African Union and United Nations to raise awareness about the plight of women and children.
As the world engages in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the body avails itself the opportunity to highlight some violent and of course harmful practices Nigerian women are continually subjected to, as well as condemn such and create the awareness among the populace that perpetrators of such inhumane acts on a folk that deserves and desires protection in all spheres, will receive a bang of the law.
This year, AwLA is using the window provided by the United Nations via the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, to contribute their own quota especially as it relates to condemning in concrete terms, societal practices that run foul to the healthy development of the women.
Activities outlined in commemorate of the 2021 version of the 16 days of activisms against gender based violence include; advocacy and sensitization visits to Khana Local Government and Oginigba in  Obio/Akpor Local Government on 26th and 30th November respectively while free legal clinic takes place in Port Harcourt Local Government on 29th of November.
While the program lasts, stakeholders are expected to brainstorm on how to solve the challenges faced by women, while women will be enlightened on their right as well as be sensitized on how to seek redress.
In a chat with The Tide woman Editor, Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi, the Coordinator of the African Women Lawyers Association, Hilda Desmond-Ihekaire, said her association is quite proactive on issues that bother on women and children’s rights.
She encouraged women to speak out against injustice meted on them by people who are supposed to protect their interest, stating that the era of accepting every awkward treatment against them is over. She enjoined them to avail themselves the opportunity of the free legal clinic provided at this season to vent out their grievances.
The AWLA coordinator revealed that her association is already handling matters of gender based violence in court at the moment and would stop at nothing until the public comes to appreciate that women are also human that should not be treated unjustly.
AWLA is a group of women lawyers with the aim and objective of protecting the right and interest of women and children in Africa. They do this through multi facetted approach, using advocacy, sensitization campaign and probono litigation services on women and children’s issues
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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NAWOJ Moves To Check Violence Against Women, Girls … Seeks More Action, Resources

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Chairman, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State Chapter, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, has called for strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women and girls in the society.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, yesterday, November 25, 2021 to commemorate this year’s 16-Days of Activism, with the theme: ‘Orange the world: End Violence Against Women Now’, the Chairman, NAWOJ, Rivers State Chapter stated that violence against women and girls reached pandemic proportion especially during the COVID-19 hit that resulted to lockdown.
Serekara stressed that as lockdown measures were implemented to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, domestic violence intensified as school closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, making them more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, forced marriage, and harassment.
“We believe  that ending violence against women will require strengthened actions by the government through more investment in women and girls,” she said, regretting that formal reports of domestic violence have decreased, yet survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels. She further noted that the 16 days of activism is an expression that gender-based violence though not inevitable, can and must be prevented.
“While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable – for instance, young girls  and teenage girls who are employed as house helps . Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights,” Serekara added.

By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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NAWOJ Seeks Adequate Protection, Provision For Children

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Aware of the numerous problems children face especially with the current harsh economy of our nation, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State has stressed the need to protect the lives of children while investing in their future.
The association said this during this year’s commemoration of “The Universal Children’s Day”, that had “investing in our children means investing in our future”, as its theme.
This was contained in a statement signed by the association’s Chairman and Secretary, Mrs Susan Serekara-Nwikhana and Dr Ngozi Anosike, respectively.
The statement described the essence of the day as a time to improve the welfare for all children.
“NAWOJ is using this special day to call on governments at all levels to ensure that every child is given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually, while cautioning parents against reproducing the number of children they cannot properly care for but give them out at their tender ages as house helps thereby exposing them to all forms of abuse.
“NAWOJ appreciates the fact that to invest in our nation requires that the child that is hungry is fed, the child that is sick nursed, the child that is backward helped, the delinquent child reclaimed, and the orphan and the unsheltered are secured”.
It commended the Governor of the State, Chief Nyesom Wike for ensuring that the Rehabilitation Centre at Iriebe is operating at optimum capacity.
NAWOJ recalls that during the commissioning of the rehabilitation Centre, Governor Wike magnanimously doled out N250million to the ministry of social welfare, just to ensure regular power supply and smooth running of the facility, a gesture NAWOJ appreciates so much as it translates to giving the children a sense of belonging.
The association also stressed the need to save the lives of new born babies in maternity homes and hospitals and called on Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company to as a matter of necessity ensure regular power supply to those facilities.
The association in the statement regretted the death of premature children in the Intensive Care Unit of OPM Free Hospital at Aluu axis of the State as a result of power outage.
“Universal Children’s Day, celebrated annually on the 20th of November, is not just a day to celebrate children for who they are, but to bring awareness to children that have experienced violence in forms of abuse, exploitation, and discrimination”, the statement added.

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