Lagos joined the rest of Nigeria and indeed, the whole world to mark the International Day for the elimination of violence against women on Monday, 25 November 2013. The Observance which was organized by the United Nations Information Centre in collaboration with the Mind Mapping Development Initiative (MMDI), took place at the Fountain Heights Secondary School, Surulere Lagos, and attracted 237 participants from six secondary schools; seven media organisations; and four Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO).
There was no dull moment from start to finish as participants were treated to two educative yet entertaining drama presentations; an Essay presentation as well as inspiring speeches, including that of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon. This was followed by an interactive session on “How am I involved?” to elicit response from the participants. The session afforded the students an opportunity to air their views on the issue of violence against women and girls. This aspect of the programme revealed some potentially dangerous gender-based beliefs held by some of the secondary school boys in attendance; prominent amongst these was that ‘Girls are usually very insulting therefore, they get beaten up by boys’. This misconception was quickly corrected by the Facilitator of the session, Ms Ifesinachi Sam-Emuwa, the Director of Treasureland Health Builders Initiative, who noted that such a stereotyped statement was itself, violence against women and girls. She enjoined the participants to eschew any act that could bring harm to women and girls.
In his special message on the occasion, Secretary General Ki-moon called for support of the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, which, according to him, helped respond to human rights violations and needs from physical safety to economic security. Mr Ki-moon, whose message was read by the National Information Officer & Officer-in-charge of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos, Mr Oluseyi Soremekun, observed that while the demand for its grants has more than doubled in recent years, the amount it has been able to distribute has diminished by 60 per cent. ‘I appeal to all partners to help meet this vast unmet demand for resources to further advance efforts to prevent and end violence against women and girls’, he added.
Welcoming the participants, Soremekun noted that ending violence against women and girls required the commitment of all – government, civil society, women organisations, men, young people, the media and other partners; adding that every individual should make commitment to shun violence against women and girls.
Soremekun called on members of the public to join hands together and end violence against women and girls in Nigeria. “Women and girls are entitled to freedom from violence. Say NO! Unite to end violence against women and girls in the country”, he added. The programme ended with an echo of ‘A promise is a promise: This is the time for action to end violence against women’.