By Olufemilade Oyinade
Wife of Ogun State Governor, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun has vowed to ensure that the law to protect women and the girl-child against gender-based violence works effectively, to bring offenders to justice and provide protection for survivors.
Mrs. Abiodun stated this at a program organized by the Office of the First Lady in conjunction with Women at Risk Foundation (WARIF), for 200 secondary school girls and 20 teachers each from the four divisions of the State, noting that all efforts taken on the issue were meant to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime do not go unpunished and the victims could take the necessary steps to recover and hopefully have a future free of stigmatisation.
She said with continuing advocacy and collective efforts of all and sundry, there would be a significant decline in the case being witnessed in the country, promising not to relent in deploying necessary resources to empower the vulnerable ones in the society.
“We are to win the fight against gender-based violence, it is not enough to just speak about it, we must also empower those who are more vulnerable. And the first step to empowerment is knowledge. And so, we will not relent in our efforts across Ogun State, to deploy all the resources necessary to empower our people to protect themselves”, she said.
Mrs. Abiodun said, the Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun has put measures in place to ensure that gender-based violence issues were addressed as a matter of priority.
“We also have a family support unit (FSU), spearheaded by the Ogun State Police Command, which we hope to establish in different parts of the State. The FSU is a safe place for everyone no matter how young or old, where they can come forward and speak up without fear
“I want to also say that we might be tempted to believe that everyone has heard, or that potential offenders have heeded the warnings from law enforcement agencies on the issue of gender-based violence. This is not the case because sadly, many incidents remain unreported. Many of the victims are either threatened or ashamed to speak out for fear of being stigmatized”, Mrs. Abiodun said.
The first lady enjoined the female students and the teachers to be ambassadors for the safety of other girls, by inculcating the knowledge acquired to their peers at schools and their various communities.
“All of you here today, both teachers and students have been chosen to be a part of the solution to the issue of sexual assault and speaking up where these crimes occur. You will then take this education to your peers at school and in your communities, and make sure that nobody suffers this needless victimization. I am counting on you to be ambassadors for the safety of our girls”, she said.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Funmi Efuwape, noted that her Ministry was training teachers on how to identify victims among the students early enough, just as the child protection and safeguarding mechanism had been put in place.
Mrs. Efuwape appreciated the teachers for their continued support for the present administration and advised students to exercise caution particularly in keeping friends to avert being lured into immoral acts.
In his remark, the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu said gender-based violence could be sexual, physical or emotional, noting that it could lead to very devastating effects, such as unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion, HIV/AIDS, and even death of the victims.
He advised the children to learn without hindrances and not allow their ambitions to be cut short through the actions and inactions of some individuals, advising the students to avoid situations that could make them vulnerable.
The project Manager, WARIF, Mrs. Chichi Ogbonnaya while taking the students through a pictorial understanding of gender-based violence and how they could keep safe and raise alarm when the need arises, categorised it as rape, female genital mutilation, trafficking, verbal and physical abuse.
She cautioned the girls on confiding in the wrong people, particularly male adults whenever they need to express their feelings or changes they experience in their bodies as they reach puberty.
She disclosed that WARIF has been collaborating with the Ogun state government and ready to treat cases reported to it, through its helpline 08092100009.