- Teenagers have flooded the street of the New Kutunku community to create awareness among residents on the fight against sexual and gender-based violence
- The teenagers called on parents and adults in the community to help protect their future by ensuring they are not abused or violated
- According to the teenagers, SGBV is a violation of their fundamental human rights and must be avoided
To drive home messages against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria, some teenagers took to the streets of the New Kutunku community in Gwagwalada Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory to preach against such criminal acts.
The teenagers who marched in their scores alongside a team of Boys' Brigade went on a fanfare carrying placards with various inscriptions.
They focused on educating residents of New Kutunku on the need for the protection of the girl child, boys and women from SGBV.
With a huge banner inviting residents of the community for a dialogue on ending SGBV against women and girls, the teenagers said they aim to create awareness among community members on the dangers of sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls and children.
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Some of their placards read: 'No Means No', 'No child ever asked to be raped', 'My voice counts', 'Say No To Child Marriage', 'Sexual violence is a violation of human rights' and 'I deserve a beautiful future; End sexual violence today'.
The teenagers' march and community dialogue is part of the Sexual Offences Awareness and Response (SOAR) Initiative project activity on mobilising community action to address SGBV against girls.
While the teenagers marched, they stopped at every 100 meters, to megaphones to invite residents of New Kukunku to a community dialogue expected to take place at the palace of the district head.
The project funded by Action Aid Nigeria seeks to raise awareness about SBGV by working with community members to identify all forms of SGBV against girls and guide the community in addressing these vices.
Speaking to Legit.ng, at the roadshow, 12-year-old Nabiha Alami, said she is out on the streets to let the people of New Kutunku know that she has equal rights with every other child.
Alami, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) 3 student said the people of New Kutunku need to know that as a girl child, she must be allowed to go to school rather than being married off before adulthood.
Collaborating the strong ideals of Alami, 14-year-old Ruth Nwafor said sexual violence against women and girls is a violation of their human rights.
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.
Also, 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 genital mutilation.
Speaking more on addressing issues of SGBV in New Kutunku, 19-year-old Dorcas Joshua said the number of cases of sexual abuse against women has continued to skyrocket with many underreported or unreported.
Dorcas told Legit.ng that
"The way children and women of nowadays have been deprived of their rights because of their gender. Many parents still believe that women's education ends in the kitchen and that is what we want to change."
"Nowadays, we women doing great things in society. Mercy Johnson, in the entertainment industry, women are doing well, in the economy, look at Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, the late Dora Akunyili."
"Being a girl child should not bring discouragement but the desire to do more to make a change in society."
Abuse of young girls in the society
For Dorcas, it is important that parents have the consciousness that children are their responsibility and as such must be protected at all times from all forms of vices.
Also speaking against child marriage, Dorcas urged parents to allow their girls to reach their full potentials in their careers and lives before they are forced into marriage.
A teacher in the community, Margaret Musa, who doubles as a member of the iMentor Girls team established by the SOAR initiative said the roadshow and the dialogue serve as a platform for enlightenment campaign in the community.
"Abuse of a young girl or even a child is wrong, and for us, any adult found abusing a child, a girl or a woman should face the law."
"They should be prosecuted. In our communities, you see adults calling little girls; fine girl, come let me buy you biscuits."
"No, we don't want that. Our girls and boys must be protected. So we are out now to tell people to stay stop abusing our children and women and you can see the little ones among us, they are even the ones speaking out."
Margaret noted that women and young girls especially those who hawk petty items on the streets face numerous challenges of abuse and violence.
"Even when people do not want to buy things, they call on them just to molest them, this must stop."
Margaret added that the surest way to end SGBV is by encouraging everyone affected to speak out.
"Even if it is not you child, please speak out, report to the appropriate authorities, don't keep quiet because when we keep protecting these criminals, you never can tell, one day they may come for your own child."
Getting to the palace of the district head of Kutunku in time for the community the dialogue, the teenagers entertained the teeming crowd with a series of local dances and a display of various cultures while passing their messages against SGBV.
They also treated their guests at the palace to a drama session, illustrating the need for education and the level of damage SGBV can cause in the life of a child.
Speaking at the dialogue, a representative of the Gwagwalada area council, Helen Alfred, said parents, elders in the community must remain vigilant.
Alfred urged parents to build bonds with their children in order to encourage them to always speak out when things go wrong.
"It is also important that we retrace our steps and go back to those family values and morals that had helped us avoid these vices in the past. Our values system is eroded and people feel they can do anything and get away with it."
For the secretary to the district head of New Kutunku, Salihu Musa, the training received by residents through SOAR Initiative activities have created awareness on the perils of child marriage.
He also said that the community through the organisation have continued to ensure that the culture of silence is eliminated and people are encouraged to speak up against acts of SGBV.
"We have made it clear that we need to know when these things happen or even when you think it is about to happen so that we can act on it."
"Everyone in this community now knows that raping, violating children is prohibited here in New Kutunku community."
In his address, Levi Yakubu, the project assistant for SOAR Initiative while aligning with the need to encourage people to speak out said counselling is key to ensuring that survivors of SGBV get all the help they need.
He also said that the SOAR Initiative support survivors with counselling, psychosocial and medical care where necessary.
UNICEF calls for media partnership in the fight to end SGBV in Nigeria
Legit.ng had previously reported that Ibrahim Sesay, the chief child protector for UNICEF urged media organisations and journalists to partner with relevant agencies on issues surrounding men and girls in Nigeria.
Sesay said funds have been committed globally towards curbing all forms of violence against women and girls.
He also called for a conscious effort to protect victims of GBV violence in every media reporting involving women, girls and children.
Need for special court for SGBV cases in Nigeria
Also, a social worker in FCT had said that Nigeria lacks special courts needed to handle cases of gender-based violence.
Ngozi Ike said these courts are needed to handle cases of violence against women and girls across the country.
According to Ike, the establishment of such courts would speed up the trial of perpetrators of gender-based violence.