The First Lady of Kwara state, Mrs. Olufolake AbdulRazaq, on Saturday led women in the state on an advocacy walk to create awareness on gender based violence, describing empowerment of the womenfolk as the fulcrum to end incessant gender based violence.
The advocacy walk which saw women from all walks of life converged at the Banquet Hall is part of activities to mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women.
Speaking to the teeming crowd that had gathered at the Banquet Hall after walk, Mrs AbdulRazaq thanked the crowd of participants for turning out in their numbers to create awareness on gender based violence. She expressed belief that the advocacy walk and its message will help in stemming the tide against gender based abuse.
In her words, “Each year on the 25th of November the world commemorates the international day for the elimination of violence against women and the ensuing 16 days of activism against gender based violence, culminating in human rights day on December 10th, these events provide a global platform for action by governments, organizations and individuals to mobilize and draw attention to the urgent need to end gender based violence.
“Gender based violence comes in different forms and can be found in the family, community and in the society. It is an act of violence that results in or likely to result to physical, sexual or psychological harm or damages to the woman, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
“The most pervasive form of gender based violence against women is rape as it affects all women regardless of their ages, race, culture or socio economic stature. While names and contexts may differ, women and girls universally experience rape, sexual abuse and violence at different times in their lives.”
Shedding more light on issues of abuse against the womenfolk, the wife of the governor reminded the gathering that, “in June this year a 60 year old man allegedly raped a 4 year old girl here in Ilorin, it took the intervention of my office and the Kwara state ministry of women affairs to get the said man to face the consequences of his action, while the care of the survivor was taken over by the ministry.”
She explained that these gender based abuses are rooted mostly in patriarchal beliefs, power and control that continue to create a social environment in which sexual violence is pervasive and normalized.
According to her, the exact numbers of rape, sexual abuse and sexual assaults are usually very difficult to confirm due to frequent latitude and impunity of the perpetrators, stigma towards survivors and their subsequent silence.
The First Lady however noted that the voices of survivors and activists through campaigns and advocacies have put the spotlight on the issue such that it can no longer be ignored.
“Today I join other Nigerians to take a stand against gender based violence because in Nigeria, according to WARIF 1 in 4 girls before the age of 18 have experienced at least one incident of sexual abuse or violence.
“Sexual violence is often times perpetrated by people close to the survivor, like family members, close friends or a person of authority. This makes it very difficult to report the abuses as the survivors are met with words of shame and stigmatization.
“These unfortunate incidents can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time and when such violent abuses happen it affects not only the survivor but the family and the community at large.
“It is however our collective responsibility to ensure that all girls and women are free from rape and all forms of gender based violence.”
Mrs AbdulRazaq also stressed the need for stakeholders to recognize that gender based violence is, at its root a manifestation of the relatively low status of women and girls in our society.
She explained that it was for this reason she founded the Ajike People’s Support Center where indigent women and youths can access empowerment through vocational skills acquisition and scholarships for the girl child.
She noted that when women and girls live free from violence and are afforded equal opportunities in education, healthcare, employment and political participation, they will lift up their families, communities and indeed the country.
The First Lady further disclosed that ending gender based violence requires empowering women and girls to speak up for themselves and also encouraging men and boys to speak up and speak out for their mothers, wives, partners, sisters and daughters.
“To achieve the aforementioned however, there is the need for us to eschew all manners of abuse and gender based violence and to depart from the usual practice of treating cases of abuse with silence. Where incidents of abuse occur, the perpetrators should be made to face the consequences of their actions, while the survivor is provided with the needed help and counseling,” she said.
She therefore called on members of the fourth estate of the realm and other stakeholders, to keep the advocacy as an ongoing conversation, until everyone is aware of the dangers inherent in gender based violence.
“I equally enjoin all our law enforcement agencies, family heads, traditional and religious leaders, proprietors and personnel of all our educational institutions and other places of worship to share our drive of ridding our society of all forms of abuses and gender based violence.
“I assure you that my office and the Ajike Peoples Support Center will continue to ensure that the wellbeing of Kwara women, children and indeed all Kwarans will be of utmost importance to us,” she pledged.
The first lady had earlier led the crowd of women and men on a walk from the banquet hall to challenge bookshop area to the post office and back to the banquet hall for her address.
The event featured top government functionaries like wife of the state Deputy Governor, Mrs Tokunbo Alabi; Kwara state Head of Service, Mrs Susan Dupe Oluwole; Chairman, KWHA Committee on Health, Hon. Razaq Owolabi, the Perm. Sec. Health, Alhaji Ilyasu Tsado and his counterpart in Women Affairs, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Opeloyeru.
The General Manger, The Herald Newspapers, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Adebayo his counterpart in Radio Kwara, Alhaji Abdulateef Adedeji the Director NOA, Mr Segun Adeyemi and many others were also at the event.