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Category Archives: Women Rights and Gender

A ONE DAY SENSITIZATION WITH KABUSA MARKET WOMEN ASSOCIATION ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (GBV)

Dated 12Th June 2018.

The problem of gender-based violence (GBV) is an age-long problem in our communities which has led to loss of lives, emotional disorder, psychological torture and other forms of human rights abuses.  These violations happen more in rural areas than the urban areas due to poor access to information, inadequate exposure and anti-human rights cultural practices, leading to an anti-social environment for women and children. Market women who ordinarily carry the burden for over 70% of the Nigerian families and are the economic main- stay of most homes suffer the most. It shows in several ways and not necessarily violent – owing to Market women often non awareness of this, it gradually ebb their sense of dignity and consequent inability to raise citizens who fully appreciate their beings in our homes.

Lawyers Alert as a human rights Organization has identified the gap which has put the lives of many women at the risk of suffering violations and other human rights abuses, and is now engaging market women associations across the country to sensitize them on Gender based violence.

The first of this training held with the kabusa market women – Abuja sorboses. The training which started at about 2:30 PM with over fourty women in attendance was held at the market square and it started with an opening prayer by a delegate of the Market Women Leader, after which a welcome address was taken by the Market Women Leader herself. All the participants briefly introduced themselves. Mr. Yemi Agoro took time to introduce Lawyers Alert as an Organization to the women and also talked about the Objectives of the meeting. Ellen Onugha who is our legal officer took time to talk about legal literacy and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Mr Yemi Agoro and Elvis Torkuma took few minutes to summarize everything in local English in other for the women to understand it better. After the session on legal literacy and Sexual reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), we gave room for comments and questions. The women were excited with our services and many threw questions which we were able to respond to with the rights answers.

One woman stood up and said, she would take it upon herself to educate those who were not present at the meeting. Another woman said initially she thought it was money we came to share to them but what she learnt from us is much more than money. After the feedback session, emphases were made on Lawyers Alert’s pro bono services, mediation, where and how they can access our free legal services and what to do when their rights are violated. This topic was even more exciting and overwhelming to them because even before we could finish this session, we had over six women reporting violations to us at the spot. It was a successful program because from their comments, questions, recommendations and openness to discuss their problems with us at the training ground, we could see that we exceeded their expectations.

 

In conclusion, we recommend more of this sensitization program for market women in other locations because many women do not know their rights and they do not know that these rights can be protected and enhanced. This will lead to more enlightened women in the society and reduction or total eradication of gender-based violence in Nigeria.

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LAWYERS ALERT CONTINUES ITS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS ENGAGEMENT

In continuation of our project which seeks to reduce and eliminate violence against women and girls, Lawyers alert has added 5 states to its already existing 8, making it a total of 13 states.

As in other states, Lawyers Alert in these new states will meet and create partnership with community women groups, the media and human rights lawyers in each state. The essence is to create rights awareness for women so they can report violations of their rights when it occurs and to recognize violations around them. It is also necessary that the media is sensitized on how best to report gender based violence through the lens of human rights. The last objective is to link these women with lawyers who will provide them with free legal services and where the services required are not legal, to refer them to other service providers.

 

In the last 6 weeks, Lawyers Alert has created partnership with key groups in these 5 states and we are currently liaising with several community women groups who report violations and access free legal services.

 

In Osun state, we are liaising with Community Advancement Initiative for Self-Reliance while in Plateau the partnering is with Center for the Advocacy for Justice and Rights (CAJR). In Niger, the Sisters Closet Counseling Volunteers (SCCV) are our partners as Girls Power Initiative (GPI) work with us in Edo State. Rahama Women Development Programme (RWDP) is our partners in Bauchi State.

Even though the project is halfway implemented, we have recorded an estimated 59 reported violations, with free legal services now being offered to over 42 women.

We have a vision of bringing justice home to women and girls who suffer violations and to also create enough publicity around these harmful practices. The analyzed data will soon be released and this will reveal the number of violations in Nigeria. Someday, we hope that these violations will become a thing of the past.

 

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Women and the Benue Killings

By Jerome Mary Uneje

The sound of the whistle pierces through the quiet dark night in the neighbourhood of Ityo Gbenda, a suburb of Anyiin, the headquarters of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State. Everybody is alarmed and tense. A few brave men dare the consequences and rush in the direction of the sound, machetes and spears in hand. The loud sound of the whistle at this time of the night could mean a warning or worse still, an attack within seconds; the few brave men have raced to the home of Pa Agbidye or what remains of it.

To their surprise, it is Orlaade, his rascal drunk of a son, who has had an overdose of ogogoro and is playing pranks. They are livid. How could one be so irresponsible as to alarm the community this way when they were barely returning home since January when the marauding herdsmen attacked the community in the dead of night killing scores and burning homes including the Orlaade’s father’s? One by one they leave, hissing only after abusing the fellow who is neither concerned nor remorseful.

Such has been the fate of the People of Logo, Guma and some other parts of Benue since the January attacks by the killer herdsmen. Though some level of peace is gradually returning, fear and an uneasy calm hang thickly in the air. The January attacks have taken a toll on the State on a multi-sector level ranging from the Government to individual persons.

At the State level, the attacks and killings have caused a lot of economic hardship and sprain on finances. For example, over 5 Internally Displaced Persons Camps have been set up by Government to cater for over 45,000 persons displaced in both Guma and Logo local governments. Through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the Government has channelled a lot of financial resources into purchasing relief materials and other necessities for Displaced Persons across the 5 camps. These monies were never budgeted for neither had plans been made in advance for their expenditure. What this implies is that, monies meant for other projects like Health Care, Agriculture and other core areas of social life may have been channelled into addressing this unexpected and unfortunate situation. This will no doubt affect the finances and economic position of the State.

Furthermore, the killings have led to a sharp decline in the aggregate food production in the state. Benue is known as the food basket of the Nation due to the high level of agricultural production the citizens engage in. With over 75% of its Citizens engaged full time in the Agro Industry, the State derives most of its Internally Generated Revenue from farms produce. Guma and Logo are particularly known for their high-level food production especially rice and yam. With both local governments currently displaced, their quota of food production and potential revenues could be lost never to be recovered. This has the potential of leading to famine, malnutrition, loss of income and other domino effects that could be inimical in the long term to general food security in the country.

At the community level, local Citizens no longer sleep with their eyes closed. Daily, the peoples of both Guma and Logo live in perpetual fear for their lives and property. Though operation “Cat Race” has been established by the Nigerian Army, fear still permeates the atmosphere. This state of perpetual fear creates an environment of insecurity, uneasy calm and tension leading to a potentially disastrous situation especially when fed by the ever-spinning rumour mill.

Though a degree of Peace has returned, the trauma of the death of loved ones and destruction of properties still affects the people. Burned houses, granaries, orchards and farmlands are physical reminders of the assault the people suffered on New Year morning of 2018. These sad reminders only make a bad situation worse. Other properties destroyed included shops and business centres. Certainly, feelings of bitterness would be assuaged if perpetrators were at least caught and punished for the irreparable losses especially human lives.

It is a global fact that in any violent conflict, women are usually the worst hit. This attack is no exception. Going by the report of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, of the over 45,000 people in the 5 camps, approximately 65% or 29, 250 are women.

A major challenge being faced by these women is the loss of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services especially for Pregnant Women. Most of them have lost follow up on Antenatal/ PMTCT services. This loss of follow-up on basic Sexual and Reproductive Health Services posses a significant danger for both mothers and unborn children. Other such services these women have lost access to include Family Planning and HIV and AIDS. The displacement has led them to an inability to continue follow up on their medication and cocktails. As a result, some of them are already taking ill and in danger of imminent death.

The dearth of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in these camps also affects young girls and women who are sexually active.  The camps provide little or no form of Sexual and Reproductive Health services to this group yet they face a situation where most of them are exposed to sexual demands from males longing to take advantage of their predicament. Already vulnerable, many succumb to these demands even without protection at the risk of unintended pregnancies and or infections. Were adequate Sexual and Reproductive Health Services provided in these camps, or these women and girls not displaced from their homes, the above situation might not arise.

Another effect of the displacement on the Benue woman is the loss of livelihood. Over 75% of women in Benue are farmers or petty traders living in rural areas. With this displacement, the women in both Guma and Logo have fled their homes leaving their means of livelihood.

With the increased pressure on their declining finances, some of these women are resorting to unbecoming methods and means of survival even sex for money in spite of the inherent dangers. Worse still is the fact that they will have little or nothing to fall back on when they return home from these camps.

Yet another effect of this displacement on the Benue Woman is the sharp increase in violations on women’s rights especially Gender Based Violence including battery, rape, assault, intimidation etc. Most of the displaced women within and/or outside these camps have faced one form of violence or the other. Though no specific statistics exist to confirm the number of displaced women violated, our survey has shown that many of the displaced women have experienced one form of violation or the other since the attacks occurred. Gender Based Violence is therefore another effect of the displacement on the Benue woman.

Full scale hostilities have subsided. Peace has since returned to the displaced communities. Pockets of violent attacks are reported here and there but the effects are still there. In order to ameliorate the effects of this conflict on the State and its Citizens, the following is recommended:

  • The Federal Government and the International Development Agencies should increase their aid to the State in providing assistance to the displaced people and in rebuilding homes and properties destroyed by the marauding herdsmen.
  • Deliberate efforts should be made by both the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in tandem with the State Institutions to assist farmers with improved seeds, seedlings and other farming inputs with a view towards boosting aggregate farm produce in Benue State to stave off famine and food shortage.
  • The operation Cat Race and other Security Operatives should intensify their patrols and surveillance in the war torn grassroot communities to establish their presence. This will reduce the level of anxiety and sleeplessness in the communities.
  • On the mass destruction of properties in the affected communities, we strongly recommend the compensation of the affected people of their losses in monetary terms,
  • We also recommend that Sexual and Reproductive Health services be provided in camps and in the conflict zones including the provision of Ante-natal/PMTCT to pregnant Mothers.
  • Lastly, we recommend the monitoring and documentation of the violations of Rights of the displaced women with a view towards investigating the violations and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

As they leave, the leader of the security contingent takes a last, piteous look at Orlaade. He ponders how such a childish act could have rattled an entire community, a situation which would never have arisen prior. He sighs. Such has been the effect of the killings in Anyiin and indeed the entire Benue State.

Jerome Mary Uneje is with Lawyers Alert

 

 

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WOMEN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ON THE PLATEAU: A RISING WARNING OCTAVE

By Jerome Uneje

Bang! Bang!! Bang!!! Bot (not real name) keeps hitting on the door as he hollers her name in the still of the night. Kangyang, (not real name) 28, and a Mother of two slowly sits up in her hard, and narrow wooden bed. She picks up her small handset to check the time. The broken screen shows 1: 17 am. Oh no… not again. She hisses, gets up and opens the door for her husband. He staggers in and begins his routine of abuse and insults in slurred speech occasioned by too much alcohol. She is quiet and takes on the abuses with a dignified silence. He pushes away his food and demands sex. This time, Kangyang refuses. She has been busy on the farm all day and is too tired for sex and asks for a little more time to rest. Bot will have none of that. She stands her ground. A scuffle ensues. Bot grabs Kangyang by the throat and begins to shake her violently. She struggles, but her blocked wind pipe cannot take in enough oxygen to sustain her strength. She gasps and gasps while Bot tightens his grip. She finally weakens and slumps, dead.

Kangyang’s story is an everyday narrative in Nigeria. Violence against Women is as common place as any other vice. The United Nations Fund for Population Agency (UNFPA) reported in 2016 that Gender Based Violence, especially against women has a prevalence rate of over 30% across the country. This translates into 1 out of every 10 Women in Nigeria as a victim of violence in one form or more. The same report has it that over 25% of Nigerian women are circumcised.

There has been an unprecedented rise in violence against women in spite of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition Act) 2015. In Plateau State for instance, reports indicate that Violence against women is on the rise. Reports from the Media and other stakeholders including the Civil Society in Plateau State has it that in the last one year, there have been up to 430 reported cases of violations against Women in the State. Of these figures, 123 are rape cases of which 96 or 80% involve minors. There are over 21 cases of murder and many more.

Currently, efforts are being made by State and Non-State Actors in Plateau state to curb this fast rising menace to the womenfolk. The Civil Society has formed an observatory platform that monitors and documents these violations. According to our sources, the Observatory Platform has over 23 Civil Society and other key stakeholders. It is this platform that has recorded the over 430 cases of violations in Plateau State over the period of 1 year alone.

Besides the efforts Civil Society, the Plateau State House of Assembly, worried by the rising cases of violations against women, has initiated an Executive bill which seeks to penalize perpatrators of violence against women. The proposed bill seeks to strengthen the old Northern Nigeria Penal Code under which offenders are currently charged and tried. The Northern Nigeria Penal Code is archaic and does not speak to current realities on ground. The proposed bill is yet to be passed and it’s still in the formative stages in the Plateau State House of Assembly.

Lawyers Alert commends the efforts of both the State and Non-State Actors in Plateau State in tackling the issue of violence against Women. Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a menace that should concern every member of the society, regardless of status.

Given the above therefore, Lawyers Alert as a Human Rights Organization and a staunch advocate of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, wishes to make the following suggestions to both the Civil Society and Government Institutions in Plateau State and Nigeria as a whole, in their efforts to curb the violations against Women and other vulnerable groups.

Regarding the efforts of the Civil Society, Lawyers Alert suggests that;

  • Recorded violations should not be stopped at the documentation stages alone but such cases should be taken to Court where the perpetrators will be adequately punished and the victims compensated
  • Monitored and documented violations should be analysed by the Civil Society in order to pattern out a trend in the violations. This will help in directing advocacy courses and programs.
  • There should be a pool of Human Rights Lawyers set to offer pro bono services to the victims of these violations especially for the poor and vulnerable.
  • Civil Society should push for the passage and implementation of laws and policies that protect and empower Women including international, regional and local instruments.

To Government Institutions:

  • They should endeavour to pass laws and policies that protect and empower Women
  • Put in place structures and procedures to assure the full implementation of passed and domesticated laws in their States.
  • Put in place structures and platforms that empower Women in economic and social terms through the formulation of laws, policies and special interventions like Women Skill acquisition programs amongst others.

In conclusion, Women Rights are Human Rights guaranteed by laws. The violations against Women must be condemned and discouraged in strong terms at all levels in Nigeria and Plateau State in particular. Failure to take proactive measures in this regard could lead to more episodes of the Kangyang story in our communities.

 

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STILL ON CITIZEN LOIS IORVIHI AND GOVERNOR AL MAKURA

Governor Al Makura

Governor Al Makura

By Jerome Uneje Mary

So much has been written and heard concerning this issue in both the social and mainstream media. Both Ms. Lois and Governor Al Makura’s crowd are trading blames and claiming rights over the said incidence with each party putting forward their edition of the story.

For reminder on the story, on this day, along the Makurdi – Lafia – Abuja Federal High Way, a young lady by the name of Lois Iorvihi was allegedly molested, brutalized and violently intimidated by the security agents on the behest of a sitting Executive Governor under his nose with impunity. This action, is in direct contrast with the wind of change across Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari. It would appear Governor Al Makura and his security details are stuck in the past and have refused to flow with the tide of change.

We were not present when this incidence occurred to endorse or renounce their claims. Some underlying facts in both editions of the same story are however not manipulative. First, there was a face-off between Ms. Lois and the Convoy of Governor Al Makura. Second, the said incidence occurred before the very eyes of His Excellency, Governor Al Makura of Nasarawa State. Third, the young lady suffered some brutalization on herself, siblings and property including her car and media devices. Finally, the young lady was arrested, charged and detained alongside her siblings. Bare fact truth is that Ms. Lois and her siblings were violated simply because she is a woman with “less rights” than her male counterparts as far as Governor Al Makura and his boys are concerned.

In the face of the foregoing indisputable fact we make bold to say that the security agents took their jobs a little too far and the Governor did much too little to manage the incidence. We are not in any way exonerating Ms. Lois of blame neither are we indicting the Executive Governor and the security details. However, we are of the strong opinion that the unfortunate incidence was in the first place avoidable had someone along the line acted a little more civil. The management of the aftermath of the incidence is even worse than the incidence in itself. Since the occurrence of the incidence, the Governors’ spokesman Yakubu Lamai, Senior Special Assistant Public Affairs & Media Strategy has been turning logic on its head all in a bid to make his boss a saint and Ms. Iorvihi the villain.

It is a common knowledge on the streets of Nigeria that security agents especially those attached to high profile personalities act with dispatch overzealousness especially on hapless citizens. Therefore, it is not an out of place incidence for the security agents attached to the convoy of an Executive Governor to pounce on a young lady who seems reluctant to give way to the Governor’s convoy. What is however surprising and baffling is the period and timing of the incidence.

Barely three months into the “change” regime, one would have thought the era of Police brutality and Master Leadership was over. It is also surprising that this ugly incidence happened to a hapless young lady before the eyes of the Governor of the State. As an Executive Governor of a State, it is mind bugling to imagine him sitting in the luxury of his SUV while watching his goons manhandle a female motorist in broad day light. We strongly feel that it is duty and obligation of the Governor to uphold the dignity and rights of hapless Citizens ESPECIALLY women regardless of any circumstances. There is no law that encourages brutality and torture on offenders. Even if Ms. Lois was “driving in the middle of the road” or being “very rude” or even “dressed like a prostitute” it is still unwarranted that her car was smashed, her ipad and phones destroyed and her siblings beaten before detention.  If Ms. Lois had violated traffic laws or committed some other form of crime, the civilized thing to do is to get her arrested and charged as per the offence. Her physical assault and brutalization under the watchful eyes of the Governor speaks volumes on the state of Human Rights in Nigeria especially those of Women. This incidence also serves as a reminder to us all that the issue of Women Human Rights is still light years away from being defended and respected in Nigeria.

Perhaps, the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant Public Affairs & Media Strategy, Yakubu Lamai was right when he said in his response to the incidence that “a political leader of the stature of a governor will naturally face a constant challenge posed by the social construction of his image and identity” which is why this incidence speaks volumes about the attitude of the Governor towards Human Rights and especially Women. In a bit to correct the above ugly incidence in preservation of his towering image we hereby recommend that the Executive Governor reach out a hand of friendship to Ms. Lois and her family. He should also attempt to recompense her on her lost and damaged properties in the hands of his goons including her car and devices. Pay the medical bills of her siblings brutalized in the course of the incidence. This way, Ms. Lois’ Fundamental Human Rights and indeed that of the entire Nigerian Women will be preserved especially in these days of change.

The likes of Governor Al Makura and his goons must learn to live with the change or make way for those who will for the good of Ms. Lois, Nigerian women and indeed the entire Nation.

Jerome Uneje Mary is a Program Officer at Lawyers Alert Head Office in Makurdi, Benue State. She can be reached at unejemarie@yahoo.com

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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ABDUCTED AND RESCUED WOMEN: LAWYERS ALERT AND SCAIN PARTNER TO SEEK SOLUTION TO RESCUED WOMEN’S DILEMMA EVEN AS BOKO HARAM STILL KICKS

Nigerians were generally jubilant when news of the rescue of large groups of women abducted by Boko Haram broke. Prior to that many had been under the impression that the Chibok girls were the only casualties of kidnap attacks. Those people probably had not kept up with the news as there were weekly reports of such abductions long before the Chibok scandal ever made international headlines. However, owing to the peculiar circumstances of those abducted (predominantly illiterate), their stories, like those of so many others in the North East particularly, became a subject for mournful head-shaking accompanied by a vigorous lack of action on the part of the then Goodluck Jonathan administration. After all, compared to the scenario where entire villages were decimated by the marauders with no consequences, the matter of random abductions seemed to pale in comparison.

The rescued women ranged from children, to young adolescents, adults and the aged. All had been subjected to gruesome hardship while most had been sexually molested or suffered some form of slavery through the duration of captivity. All were traumatised. While some chose to brave the challenges and returned to their original communities, many have had to be accommodated in IDP camps owing to the lack of safety in their communities and their own fear of returning there. Others fled their states and are living on the run in other parts of the country where their safety is equally a matter for debate. Though some of the rescued women have been housed in IDP camps, their situation is quite different from those of other IDPs having been taken and kept against their will by terrorists. This is not intended to demean the sufferings of the other IDPs but the circumstances for both sets of women are distinct and require different approaches.

The rescued women should, by now, be receiving adequate mental and psychological care and counselling to checkmate the damage done from the dehumanising treatment meted out to them in captivity. There is also the possibility, which has so far not really been explored, that some of these women may very well be Boko Haram sympathisers now having been brainwashed into accepting the violent ideology preached by these terrorists. Known as Stockholm syndrome, the possibility of a captive developing a bond with their captor is a common occurrence and could pose a further security threat.

Incidentally, these camps which should ordinarily have been a safe haven for these rescued women has thrown up unique challenges with some totally unanticipated. It is common to hear of soldiers in conflict situations taking advantage of women sexually but what about the civilian population drawn from government etc that have been put in charge of administering these camps? Investigations reveal that officials of a certain government agency have been found wanting in the discharge of their duties. Not only have the women accused them of withholding relief materials except when offered sexual gratification, the same officials have also been accused of brutally raping these same women, a good number of whom are already pregnant, nursing mothers or have suffered one of form of trauma or another at the hands of their captors. As soon as the stories started filtering out, government’s response was to restrict access to the IDP camps to such an extent that the entire process is now mired in huge wads of red tape thereby discouraging external eyes and ears.

Not only is access to the IDP camps now extremely restricted, quite a few of the camps have been disbanded and moved to parts unknown practically overnight. Additionally, the trauma of being molested by those who are supposed to be protecting them has led these women to a place of general suspicion of the motives of any outsiders desiring to help.

Their situation is dire. In addition to physical and mental health challenges, a good number are pregnant and some do not want these babies. Now that access to them is so severely limited, what happens? Will we be facing cases of infanticide as babies mysteriously die or get discarded by mothers who do not want them? Away from this troubling scenario, we also encounter the dilemma of stigma and discrimination, a very real danger as these women struggle to overcome the shadow of Boko Haram.

This issue of stigma and discrimination is one which must not be taken lightly. These women face the challenge of being ostracised by their communities even if they do return. In the event they do not, they cannot live in the camps indefinitely, what happens to those who, after the camps are disbanded, cannot go back to their communities? What about those who have fled their states of origin and are currently living in illegal IDP camps in other parts of the country? What provision are the governments of those states making to ensure their safety and possible resettlement?

These are just some of the challenges Lawyers Alert and SCAIN, are trying to get answers to with support from the Urgent Action Fund for Africa, UAFA. So far, a meeting of crucial stakeholders has been held with a view to charting a direction, with hopes of passing resolutions to the authorities. The aim is to impress upon government its role in this crisis and also proffer solutions for the women rescued from the captives. The document will be available for public consumption on this page as soon as it is fully developed and submitted to relevant authorities.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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