Since the recent upsurge of the rape and gender-based violence cases witnessed during the coronavirus lockdown, the First Lady of Kebbi State, Her Excellency Dr Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu has swung into action making tactical moves in collaboration with governmental agencies, human rights groups, civil society organizations as well as credible media platforms.
The strategic collaborations with bodies such as Federal Ministry for Women Affairs led by H.E Dame Pauline Tallen, Tallafin Mata, FOMWAN, Movement Against Rape and Sexual Violence initiative (MARS-V) and of course Nigerian Governors Wives Against Gender-Based Violence (NGWA-GBV) primarily aims to stimulate the speedy domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) and the Child’s Right Act in the states that are yet to do so as an effort to mobilize action against these vices. Other goals of the GBV campaign are community sensitization and resource mobilization.
Through a series of national and international webinars and media chats, Dr Bagudu has been specific about her belief that the best approach towards fighting violence against women and children is education, awareness and the need to change the mindsets of people.
All the same, she has advocated for the domestication of the Childs Right act and the VAPP act starting from her home state of Kebbi where the bill has recently been submitted by H.E. Gov Abubakar Bagudu to the state house of assembly for consideration. An action which Her Excellency has celebrated in a press statement. A 3-day workshop has also been convened in Kebbi state by CSOs and development partners to deliberate and make recommendations to the state house of Assembly on the protective bills.
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In addition, she encouraged religious and traditional leaders to open up the much-needed conversations of rape, divorce and child marriage right to our community grassroots where the crimes are more prevalent and the culprits are unaware of the gravity of their offences.
According to her, its one thing to domesticate the laws, and another to report cases due to the deeply ingrained attitudes and culture of silence brought on by victim shaming in our society.
However, with the support of President Muhammdu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation, wives of governors of the 36 states led by the wife of the president H.E Aisha Buhari, have formed a coalition which led to the Governors declaring a state of emergency on the issue. The state first ladies also aim to advocate for greater funding of empowerment initiatives for women.
Encouragingly, the World Bank has announced a $500M credit facility for Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE) to support secondary education opportunities amongst young girls through various measures one of which is GBV awareness and prevention.
In the words of Dr Bagudu, “lack of economic empowerment is one of the reasons leading to the silence. Industrialised nations have been able to overcome these vices through economic empowerment”.
Although the current GBV advocacy is at fever pitch, it is not a new one and also keys into several other programs in the office of the First Lady. Dr Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu is a board member of renowned Women at Risk International Foundation which engaged 200 boys in a conversation cafe during the 16 days of activism in 2019. 200 girls were also sensitized.
During the cafe, HE Gov Abubakar Bagudu educated young boys on how to protect themselves and seek help if abused. Such programs if engrained in school curriculums will help in curbing GBV. Similarly, High-Level Women Advocates (HILWA), which is a UNICEF led body with Dr Bagudu as its patron, is tasked with increasing girl child enrollment and reducing drop out rates.
Speaking live on Aljazeera News on Saturday 18/07/2020, Dr Zainab Bagudu said the declaration of a state of emergency has improved the situation for women because of the positive advocacy that is ongoing and the fact the number of convictions is not high should not discourage Nigerians as Rape is a hard crime to prove even in countries with an advanced legal and forensic testing system.
In a related event, Dr Bagudu was live on the 7 pm Euronews program Friday 17/07/2020 to discuss the Nigerian sexual violence epidemic. She took the conversation to the global stage for the international community to hear the cry of all abused Nigerian women and children.
Dr Bagudu asserts on Aljazeera live that “based on the 717 cases of rape reported by the inspector general of the Nigerian police force over the last 5 months and the statistically proven fact that for every one reported case there are ten others that have not been reported, we can conclude that not less than 7000 cases have occurred in the past 5 months”
Underneath all this, Dr Zainab Bagudu is an advocate for child’s rights, education, healthy lifestyle and the founder of Medicaid Cancer Foundation.
With leaders as vocally concerned as Dr Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, there is hope that not only will these laws be domesticated in good time but social norms will also be adapted to protect the rights of women and children in Nigeria. It is now left for the legislative and executive arms of government to provide adequate funding to improve and empower its citizens.
Muktar Abubakar Bagudo