Ending GBV: We Must Let Communities Own Movement – Bisi Fayemi
… Calls For Increased Enabling Legal Framework
Reproductive Health Issues Reporrage Is Better Now – Dr Ejike Oji
COVID-19 heightened domestic and sexual violence – Amina Muhammad
A clarion call has gone to all stakeholders in the area of reproductive health rights issues and fight against all forms of gender-based violence to make concerted efforts towards getting the communities; Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders and other community influencers to own the struggle.
This appeal was made recently at the 10th anniversary lecture of the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists in Nigeria, NRHJN.
Speaking as the Guest Speaker, Ekiti State First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi called for a better upgraded and strengthened coordinating mechanism by all concerned.
In his welcome address, the chairman, Board of Trustees, NRHJN, and Chairman, Association of Advanced Family Planning of Nigeria, Dr. Ejike Oji went down memory lane on what prompted the formation of the network and commended members for their efforts so far.
The theme for the anniversary lecture is; “Nigeria At 60, Progress And Opportunities For Sexual And Reproductive Health And Rights Protection” and a sub-theme; “COVID-19, A Pandemic’s Assault On Gender-Based Violence And Reproductive Health Services.”
“Ten years ago, based on outcome of research which showed scanty reportage of reproductive health issues in our various media outlets except for HIV/AIDS issues, the objective of founding the network to have a group of specially-trained journalists focusing on reproductive health issues came up.”
“As Country Director of Ipas then, we were training 40-60 Journalists across the country yearly. We have trained about 500 Journalists and they have been very active. I am very proud of the commitment of members and modest achievements in the last one decade. And the challenge for you is to continue to do more.
According he Dr. Oji, the deaths from unsafe abortion then was huge. And one of the changes was to change the laws and train the women on the hazards of the situation at hand.
Speaking further, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, who was represented by Mrs Rita Ilevbare said that though, there are improvements in certain areas regarding reproductive health rights issues, we still need to call for better political will to create enabling legal framework.
She called for more community mobilization, engagement and ownership in order to be able to sustain the gains made. “We must let the Traditional rulers, community leaders and religious leaders own the movement. We should also have the coordinating mechanism upgraded and strengthened.
In her opening remarks, chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Abuja Branch and a member of the network’s BOT, Barrister Hauwa Shekarau congratulated members for their efforts and commitment so far while encouraging them to remain focus on the objectives because the country still needs their input in achieving the set goals.
While delivering her paper, Magistrate Amina Garuba, Executive Chairperson, VAPP Law Working Group, Bauchi State, said that in Bauchi like other states, there was increase in cases of gender-based violence during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
According to her, the lockdown also made getting justice takes a longer time. “Ability to access justice and referrals services were greatly affected. The few referral centres in Bauchi State were limited in their ability to provide services. In March and April, we had 9-10 cases of reported rape and other forms of gender-based violence.”
She revealed that in May alone, they had about 100 reported cases and these are just the reported cases, meaning we have many unreported cases.
“Simply because many young girls were not in safe spaces like schools because of the lockdown. It was partial lockdown in Bauchi State but the rural dwellers still find it very difficult accessing legal or medical services.
Thereby, resulting in increased teenage pregnancies.”
However, the good news is that the VAPP Law was enacted during this period. Though, there were few corrections made and now returned to the lawmakers.
“And there is a reformed legal framework to respond to all forms of gender-based violence in the state now.” She concluded.
During his panel discussion, Secretary, Kano State Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Imam Wada Bello painted a very gloomy picture of the situation on ground in Kano State indicating that there’s still more work to be done by network members.
According to him, many girls still do not know their reproductive health rights, thus, being forced to do things against their wish and at the detriment of their health. He pointed out a very scary statistics over which Dr. Oji expressed sadness over continuous sexual violations of minors.
Dr. Oji also mentioned the fact that studies have shown that 70% of maternal deaths are of people below 18 years. “If we will just allow those young girls to reach age 18 before being put in family way, we will be able to reduce the death rate by 50%.”
The Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Prof. Ayo Atsenuwa whose anniversary lecture was delivered by Madam Vivian Madu, commended the idea of having about 20 referral centres in the country now and called for more Cervical Cancer Screening centres as well as affordable treatment for all.
Mrs Adenike Badiora collected the network’s anniversary Achiever’s Award on behalf of her excellency, Erelu Bisi Fayemi from the Executive Director of JAAIDS, Olayide Akanni.
Awards of Recognition were given to all board members for their support and contributions to the growth of the network.
The President, Secretary and Project Adviser of the network were also awarded for their unwavering commitment to the growth of the network.
Dr. Tunde Akanni of Lagos State University School of Communication presented the assessment of stories submitted by members with Hajia Sekinah Temitope Lawal, Mrs. Appolonia Adeyemi and Ijeoma Ukazu going home with Certificates of Recognition.
Akanni called on members to continue to do more in terms of well-researched human interest stories that will change the narratives for better.
Managing Director, Media Career Services, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin presented the certificates to the honourees while urging them to do more for humanity.
A minute of silence was observed in honour of memory of one of the network’s members and Niger State Coordinator, Mary Jalingo with a posthumous award given to her sister.
NRHJN has been at fore front of advocating for quality healthcare delivery especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health rights and issues.