It's Wrong to Beat Girls, 13-Year-Old FCT Resident Campaigns Against Sexual, Gender-Based Violence

It's Wrong to Beat Girls, 13-Year-Old FCT Resident Campaigns Against Sexual, Gender-Based Violence

  • Teenagers in the Gwagwalada area council of the Federal Capital Territory are all invested in fighting sexual and gender-based violence in their community
  • The teenagers alongside several of the New Kutunku community members also want an improved girl-child enrollment, retention and completion of basic education
  • According to the teenagers and the community members, any form of women and girls would not be tolerated

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Ibrahim Musa, a 13-year-old student of Government Day Secondary School New Kutunku in Gwagwalada area council of the Federal Capital Territory joined a team of other teenagers to campaign against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

The campaign train which had members of the community including young people, girls and boys, parents, and religious and traditional leaders among many others was organised by a non-governmental organisation, Sexual Offences Awareness and Response (SOAR) Initiative.

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SOAR Initiative, Girl-children, sexual and gender-based violence, domestic violence, abuse, women, children
The SOAR Initiative has focused on adopting key strategies in fighting SGBV. Photo: Nnenna Ibeh
Source: Original

SOAR Initiative, an organisation set up for the prevention and response to the prevalence of various forms of sexual violence and exploitation against children in Nigeria is funded by ActionAid Nigeria to create physical safe spaces for women and girls.

The campaign for Saturday, May 7, of which Musa was part of saw to the use of drama, dance and advocacy sessions to enlighten the people of New Kutunku about the dangers of SGBV and how to respond to such criminal acts should it by any chance occur within the community.

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While the whole scenario was a fanfare loaded with activities for the kids, teenagers and members of the community to engage in, Musa had plans and thoughts running through his mind.

For Musa, the event was not just one to come to eat and merry but a moment of reflection and actively educating others on how to protect the girls in the community.

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SOAR Initiative, Girl-children, sexual and gender-based violence, domestic violence, abuse, women, children
The teenagers in New Kutunku used drama, dance and various activities to enlighten community members on the dangers of SGBV. Photo: Nnenna Ibeh
Source: Original

He told that through the initiative's efforts, he now understands why every girl and even boy must be protected from all forms of abuse.

His words:

"I tell my friends that we must not beat any girl, beating girls is wrong and does not mean that that you're a strong person when you beat, it only shows you're even weak.
It is not good to beat girls or even anyone becuase they can get injured and maybe even die and you'll be in trouble, get arrested and won't see your family again."

Resolved to protect as many girls in the community as possible, Musa said it is important that girls in the community are also allowed to go to school.

He said:

"We are all equal and just like the boys, the girls should also be allowed to go to school and learn how to read and write from teachers in the school."

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In a recent report, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that there is an explosion of 18.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria in 2022, compared to the number in 2021.

According to UNICEF, 60 per cent of the population of children who are not in school - which amounts to 1,100,000 children - are girls.

A mother not left out in giving her girls the best education

Joining Musa in advocating for an end to SGBV and an improved enrollment of the girl-child in school, is 35-year-old Saratu Unnana.

Saratu, a mother of six (all girls) and a petty trader in the New Kutunku market, told that despite not having access to basic education, she would do all it takes to ensure all her girls are educated.

Speaking in pidgin English she said:

"It's by force oo! I no care who no go like am, all my children, all of dem be girls, they must go school and dem go finish school."

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When inquired what her reasons for such a strong decision could be, Saratu responded:

"Na because girls dey make am for life too, no be only boys, see me if I go school, I for no dey sell for market, I for dey for office not under the sun."

Girls are humans and have rights too

For Angel Ozuah, a 14-year-old Junior Secondary School student, as a girl, she has more to offer than just being in the kitchen as widely perceived by many.

Ozuah said:

"People always think girls are supposed to stay in the kitchen but they don't know we can do more than that, we have a future, and we have rights. We can go to school and learn more."

Angel who participated in a stage play during one of the sessions said she understands that she must walk out of any environment that does appear safe for her.

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She also said she must report any form of abuse to her parents or teachers in school and ensure the matter is taken up to the community leader and then the police for the prosecution of the suspected abusers.

She added:

"The drama teaches that we should always know our rights and we should not be left behind, always be in school and seek counselling from people trained for such."
SOAR Initiative, Girl-children, sexual and gender-based violence, domestic violence, abuse, women, children
New Kutunku community members agreed to achieve a zero-tolerance status against SGBV. Photo: Nnenna Ibeh
Source: Original

Strategies use to enlighten communities on the need to end SGBV and support girl-child education

Speaking on protecting girls in various communities in the FCT and ensuring an improved enrollment and retention in school for the girl-child, Annette Pwajok, the operation manager of SOAR Initiative, told that the organisation is focused on achieving two key things.

She words:

"We try as much as possible with all our activities, and all our projects to achieve two things - to prevent these issues from even happening at all and if it happens, we aim to help people who have been abused survive the trauma."

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She also noted that all efforts are being made through the initiative to ensure that girls in three communities in the FCT, including New Kutunku in Gwagwalada area council access basic education.

Pwajok noted that the SOAR initiative has also trained a number of the community members as iMentors who guide and counsel the girls and sometimes parents and guardians when the need arises on issues of SGBV.

Prevalence of SGBV in Nigeria, causes and way forward

According to the United Nations, it is estimated that one in three women experience either physical or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

The UN said these figures are mirrored in Nigeria, with 30 per cent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 reported to have experienced sexual abuse.

In addition, the international agency said noted that insurgency and protracted conflict have only served to exacerbate the occurrence of GBV in the northeast region while harmful practices such as child marriage are prevalent in Nigeria, with 43 per cent of girls married before the age of 18, while 20 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 have undergone female circumcision popularly known as FGM.

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Gwagwalada council commits to fighting SGBV

For a representative of the Gwagwalada area council, Helen Alfred, the council does not take cases of SGBV lightly.

Alfred said that the Gwagwalada area council is preaching and has so far adopted zero tolerance for SGBV in all communities in the council.

Her words:

"All the training we have had so far from SOAR Initiative will help us even within our immediate families and other extended communities.
Anybody caught committing any form of SGBV or abuse cases, the matter will not be taken lightly by the area council because even the Federal Government is against it and we are all working together to ensure we bring an end to SGBV."

Traditional leader, son, 5 others bag awards for standing against gender-based violence in Abuja community

A traditional leader of a community in Abuja and five other residents had been presented with awards.

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The awards were given to the recipients by SOAR Initiative for their commitment to the campaign to end SGBV and ensure that girls of the community are enrolled in schools.

Members of the New Kutunku community in the Gwagwalada area of the Federal Capital Territory also pledged never to tolerate any form of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls.

Abuja community releases 17 actions to take against anyone who abuses children

The New Kutunku community in the Gwagwalada area council of Abuja had earlier taken drastic steps to protect their children and loved ones.

The community through a partnership with SOAR initiative developed a by-law to checkmate the activities of criminals who tend to abuse women, girls and children.

Speaking on the by-law seen by, the district head of New Kutunku, Gomna, said he would ensure that every perpetrator of SGBV in the community is prosecuted.


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