Worried by the increasing gender-based violence (GBV) and other harmful practices targeting women, the United Nations Women and the Ford Foundation have rallied traditional rulers in the country to end the menace and advance the course of women.
The organisations believe the traditional institution is pivotal in ending GBV and other forms of violence against women.
Vice-President of Ford Foundation, Hilary Pennington, and Community Representative of UN Women for the ECOWAS Region, Beatrice Eyong, spoke in Lagos at a roundtable with leaders of faith and culture and women’s rights organisations in Nigeria.
The roundtable was an avenue to deliberate on the role of cultural and faith leaders alongside WROs in collectively shifting norms that perpetuate gender-based violence and to identify avenues for effective prevention and response and sustained investment.
In attendance were four prominent first class traditional rulers in Nigeria including the Convener-General of the Council of Traditional Leaders of Africa, Oba Aderemi Adedapo, Alayemore of Ido-Osun; Emir of Fika in Yobe State, Dr Muhammad Ibn Abali Muhammad Idrissa; Emir of Shonga in Kwara, Dr. Haliru Yahaya and HRH Barr. Igwe Ralph Simon Igwe Ezeh Ochendo 1 of Obige Obukpa as well as faith-based leaders, among others.
The UN Women representative stated that advancing the course of women does not pose any threat to male position in the society.
She said the will of the influential people in the society, especially the traditional rulers who are closer to the people, was required to end the menace of GBV.
“When there is the will of influential figures, change can occur,” she said.
She expressed regret over the rejection of the Gender Bill by the National Assembly, saying the UN Women would sustain the push for the passage of the Bill.
She disclosed that an annual GBV Summit of paramount rulers in Africa would be sustained as a platform to rally traditional rulers whom she noted are “key to shifting norms that perpetuate gender-based violence and enhance reduction of GBV in the society.”
“We all have a responsibility to end gender based violence and advance the course of women. I can tell you working for the advancement of women does not threaten the male position in society.”
FORD Foundation VP said ending GBV cannot be achieved without the involvement of the traditional institutions and religious leaders in the society.
“We are here to learn from you, hear your advice and work together. We are the generation who can change this,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the traditional rulers, Oba Adedapo said GBV remains a major public health concern and human rights violation globally.
He said the traditional rulers acknowledge their role in stopping the menace and other harmful practices like female genital mutilation against women.
The traditional ruler said, “As traditional and faith leaders, we acknowledge our significant role in preventing gender based violence (GBV) and harmful practices in communities. Our vintage position can influence attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors towards gender norms and violence.
“As such, we are and can be powerful agents of change in preventing GBV and harmful practices. Our influence in communities should be used to promote positive gender norms, provide support to survivors of GBV, raise awareness about the harmful effects of GBV and harmful practices, and advocate for laws and policies that protect women and girls.”