Gender-Based Violence: Group canvasses involvement of religious leaders

By Gloria Essien

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As Nigerian women continue to celebrate International Women’s Day, religious leaders have been urged to get involved in the campaign against gender-based violence by using their pulpits to preach against the practice.

This was the consensus at an event organised by a non-governmental organisation, Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+), in Abuja.

The National Coordinator of NINERELA+, Amber Erinmwinhe, while speaking at an event to mark the day, said that it is important to make sure that faith-based leaders start promoting gender justice through their platforms.

“We have come to realise that women have a lot of power but how to positively channel their power to attract positive change is what we need,” Amber Erinmwinhe said.

She said that women should also use their strengths to challenge gender-based violence in their localities.

The national coordinator also said that religious leaders have used their platforms to silence and kill some women by deciding to keep silent on issues affecting women.

“NINERELA+ chooses to challenge gender-based violence. It has not been easy but we are making progress” She added.

One of the sponsors of the event, the Christian Aid UK Nigeria Programme, says Nigeria still has a long way to go to end violence against women.

The Programme Coordinator for Christian Aid UK Nigeria Programme, Mr Obele Ebelechukwu, said that it is important to make gender-based violence a burning issue to achieve results.

“Looking at some of the SDGs that we have at a global level which we are trying to domesticate, we know we are not where we are but we still have a long way to go to what we want to achieve. This is part of the beginning. Creating that sensitivity amongst women to know that they have the capacity and the potential to create change. And we stand with them today”. Mr Ebelechukwu said.

Some of the women at the meeting agreed that women are being victimised because of a lack of knowledge.

Mrs Victoria Efik, of the Women’s Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, WOWICAN, said that the faith-based organisations need to go to the rural areas to sensitize women on the need to break the culture of silence.

“Women should come out and talk about what they are going through to get help. It is because they don’t speak up that’s why they burst out. That’s why you hear of women pouring hot water on their husbands and using knives on them. But they speak up, they can easily be helped” Mrs Efik said.

Also speaking, Mrs Ramatu Muhammed of the Muslim Sisters Organisation, MSO, also believes that women need to be more outspoken about issues affecting them.

“Gone are the days women suffer in silence. Now women are encouraged to speak to organisations and individuals and challenge what they don’t like.” Mrs Muhammed said.

The work theme for the 2021 International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to Challenge’ and the women at the meeting all choose to challenge gender-based violence in Nigeria.

 

Zainab Sa’id

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