Experts have identified gender-based violence as a recurrent social problem. In Nigeria, the incidence of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, forced and early marriages, and the rape of minors has spiked in recent years. The kidnap of young women as sex slaves has been exacerbated due to the insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria. While the 2018 Nigeria demographic and health survey found that an appalling 30 per cent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 have reported abuse, the situation appears to have degenerated even further, leading the Federal Government in June 2020 to declare a state of emergency against gender-based violence.
This culture of violence and exploitation, described as the "shadow pandemic", causes incalculable harm and trauma to the victims. It is because of this that the AUN School of Law is collaborating with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Call to Action(CtA) in sponsoring “Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies,” a hybrid course.
The AUN-led GBViE course, the 4th in the series, began on June 29, 2021, in the 24-hour room of the Library and ends on July 9, 2021. The course, which started in November 2019, held its 2nd and 3rd segments online due to the restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The course is designed to increase the skills and knowledge of qualified individuals regarding gender-based violence risk mitigation and prevention, focusing on linking theory to practice in order to improve GBV response in humanitarian settings in Nigeria.
President Ensign, in her opening address, thanked the facilitators and participants for their hard work during the pandemic, emphasizing that the University stands 100% behind such initiatives.
"One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, and we must work together to tackle this issue", the President said.
Chairman, Planning Commission of Adamawa State, Dr. Mary Paninga, in a goodwill message, condemned the harmful effects of gender-based violence in the state in particular, and in the North East Region of Nigeria. She enumerated the measures the state is taking to tackle the menace.
"In a bid to fight this issue, the Adamawa state government has passed a bill that is on the verge of being signed into law against gender-based violence. This will go a long way in curbing the problem”.
Joining virtually from Geneva, Global Deputy Coordinator Gender-based Violence Area of Responsibility, Astrid Hartland, encouraged the participants to learn as much as possible to build an effective human response to gender-based issues here in Nigeria.
A participant and faculty member in the AUN School of law, Dr. Obinna Dike, expressed optimism that participants can learn and understand the issues at hand through this unusual course.
"This will be useful to the course I teach, which is humanitarian law, and is also an opportunity to ventilate ideas, listen to opinions and improve on the spectrum I teach my students", said Dr. Dike.
Aisha Muhammed, who works as the desk officer for internally displaced persons at the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs in Abuja, also expressed her interest in learning how to respond to their needs.
"I am often bewildered by the sensitivity of the gender-based violence issues I come across in my line of work. This course, I believe, will expose me to the necessary skills I need to deliver at work, and I will also better understand how to respond to victims of acute emergencies."
As a Development University, AUN is committed to impacting and improving communities positively. Teaching, building knowledge, and providing solutions for such pressing problems in society is one of the University's core missions. With the GBViE course, AUN provides practical solutions to stem the unacceptable tide of violence and gives field practitioners a useful skill set to help in the struggle to prevent incidences of gender-based violence.
Reported by Bitwul Dashe