By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
UNICEF Satisfied with Nigerians’ Efforts to End Violence Against Children, Woman, as It Seeks More Funding for the Cause
Nigerians are leading a national movement to change the culture of violence against children and women, United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, said.
He expressed satisfaction that Nigerian leaders and communities are increasingly coming to terms with the scale of the problem and promising support to find solutions.
“Breaking the silence on the issue has encouraged more families to come forward and report cases and other violence or abuse. This increase in reporting is ringing alarm bells about the need for more funding and resources to cope with the problem,” Hawkins highlighted.
He noted that for years the issue of violence against children has continued, despite efforts to stop it.
The UNICEF chief observed that a proactive culture is developing in Nigeria whereby community leaders and the police are working together with unprecedented coordination to implement a zero-tolerance policy for violence against children and women.
He implored girls to continue to have the courage to come forward to report the violence they have undergone, and seek help.
“While political leadership is essential to this shift, the real heroes of this movement are the girls coming forward to report the violence they have suffered, the women activists who have pushed for better services for rape survivors, and the boys and men who support them, ” Hawkins stressed.
He pointed out that across Nigeria, women have overcome incredible obstacles to set up rape crisis centres, legal support systems, counselling services, school outreach networks and community engagement programmes.
The UNICEF representative explained why UNICEF featured some of the brave Nigerians from Ebonyi State, Sokoto State, Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja in its year 2021 calendar.
“All of these heroes are united by a refusal to accept the fallacy that Nigerian culture tolerates violence against children and women, and that it cannot be changed – and this calendar features just a tiny selection of these brave Nigerians from Ebonyi State, Sokoto State, Lagos and the FCT,” Hawkins related.
He emphasized that there is a long way to go “before we realize the dream of a Nigeria where children and women do not live in fear of being attacked or raped.”
According to him, speaking out is a necessary first step. He, therefore, enjoined stakeholders that this courage must be met with better services to access justice and facilitate recovery.
Hawkins declared: “Government has a critical role to play in leading the way, providing the necessary resources and removing the obstacles. But government alone cannot solve this problem and we need to recognize the grassroots efforts that are driving real change in communities across the country.”