Wife of the Delta State Governor, Dame Edith Okowa has charged women and girls to break loose from traditional silence and speak up when they are sexually abused or witness an act of gender molestation, violence within their community.
Dame Okowa gave this charge on Thursday, November 26, 2020, while addressing a rally of gender-based advocates who visited her at the government house, Asaba, in commemoration of this year’s 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Speaking to the advocates who came under the umbrella of Delta State Coalition Against Gender-Based Violence, the First Lady said so much needs to be done to eliminate the scourge of sexual violence in the state and country at large.
She expressed displeasure at the recent occurrences of child defilement, rape and domestic violence against women, stressing that women should feel safe, speak up, listen and show love to victims of sexual violence.
“We should go to churches, market places, to schools talking to our young girls, see something say something. Stop shutting up your daughters, let them speak because if you don’t listen to them, someone else will give them ears. Respond to these victims, so many of them might not be able to talk, they need love, they need our ears.”
While commending the passion and effort of the coalition in leading the awareness against gender-based violence in the 16 days activism event, Dame Okowa harped on the need for comprehensive data collection of sexual abuses, domestic violence for the purpose of policy implementation.
Earlier, leader of the Coalition and the Executive Director, International Center for Women Empowerment and Child Development, Barr Julian Ogwulu said the commemoration of the 16 days of activism basically serves to raise public awareness on the repugnant action of violence against women and girls, noting that, gender-based violence is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our present world.
She stated that recent statistics published by the State Ministry of Justice showed that Delta State recorded its highest cases of gender-based violence in 2018 since the Ministry started keeping the records, saying that the situation from all indications has further worsened world wide with advent of Covid-19 pandemic.
“Although there are no available statistics yet but there has undoubtedly been a significant increase in the number of reported acts of violence against women and girls in Delta State and across Nigeria since the outbreak of the pandemic.”
Barr Ogwulu while sighting impunity, silence, stigma and shame as inhibitors to addressing the large majority of cases of gender-based violence which go unreported, applauded the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law in Delta state, emphasizing that it has comprehensive and far reaching provision against gender-based violence.
“Indubitably, it represents a formidable instrument for combating violence against women and girls. The VAPP law is therefore a critically important legislation in the fight against gender inequality and the marginalization of women and girls.”
Chairperson, FIDA Delta state, Stellamaris Mejulu, in a vote of thanks, appreciated Dame Edith Okowa for giving the coalition a listening ear and assured her that the advocacy will continue. She further commended the State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa and the State Attorney General, Barr Peter Mrakpor for the passage of the VAPP law which she said will rip the state of violators of the law.
Representatives of NCWS, NAWOJ, NMA and other NGOs, CSOs in the state, formed part of the coalition present at the visit.