UN initiative on women dignity in Yobe

The United Nations is in partnership with some non governmental organisations in Yobe state to restore the dignity of some women lost either to drugs or violence as MUSA M BUBA reports.

In many parts of the world, drugs abuse has been the order of the day with many having mental and psychological disorder while a good number of others die as a result.

In Nigeria, many people profit from the business of hard drugs because on a daily basis, the consumption rate is on the increase, therefore to the suppliers, it’s a lucrative business but to the unsuspecting consumers, it is lethal.

Before now, drugs abuse was known among the male folks, but today, women,especially married ones, are into it. That is why it has now become a global burden.

Investigation therefore reveals that governments alone cannot tackle the scourge alone as non-governmental organisations, religious associations and parents need to work hand-in-hand to address the menace.

It was also in this regard that the Protection, Empowerment and Resilience Building of Women in Northeast (PERB) project team leader, TamwakatGolit, said the organisation was working to regain the dignity ofwomen in different aspects of life.

The initiative

In order to reduce the number of women taking any substance known as drug, the United Nations (UN) has trained 200 women and ladies who cut across Yobe state by sensitising them on the theme of ‘Understanding Drug Abuse and Substance, Counselling, Prevention and Control’.

According to Fati Ibrahim Makintami, a legal practitioner and one of the resource persons, the training was basically to open up and look for a way forward having realised that the number of drugs abuse among women is on the increase.

“We intend to counsel and empower them. Many are willing to denouncethe act, to get out of the  abuse but do not know how to go about it,” she said.

She further said they were going into partnership with traditional rulers,security agencies and advocacy groups to reduce the menace.

Some victims speak

Narrating her ordeals, Aisha Abdullahi, one of the participants who is into the drugs abuse told Blueprint that for her, poverty and lack of the means of livelihood were the factors responsible.

“I take drugs to forget some of my sorrows, I am the first born and all the family burdens are on me and I do not have something doing. My younger brother, who is willing to assist our parents, underwent army screening nine times but was not successful, only children of the well-to-do are considered,” she said.

Another participant, Fatima Mohammed, said because she could not bear a child, her husband divorced her, saying presently there are eight ladies who are into the drugs abuse and prostitution living with her.
Although the participants showed remorse but said they do not have alternative to what they are doing, pleading that if the government can rehabilitate and empower them, they are willing to denounce the act.

The peace clubs initiative

As result of the insurgency, many schools like Government Girls Secondary School Buni Gari, Buniyadi and Goniri were relocated to the premises of Government Girls College Damaturu, the state capital.

In order to have a cordial relationship among the schools and the students, the UN Women Search for Common Ground under its platform, Peace Architecture Dialogue (PAD)  established peace clubs to re-echo the need to build a habit of peaceful co-existence amongst the students of the secondary schools and also to discourage drugs taking.

The Yobe state Project Coordinator, Oluwatobi Salawu, while inaugurating the clubs across five secondary schools in the state at Government Girls College, Damaturu said, “We are targeting 100 students from 5 schools to be trained in peace clubs. We intend to teach the students the right attitudes while they are still young, so that by the time they grow, they will not depart from it. Catch them young, that’s the concept”.

Speaking further, Salawu said, “To inculcate the culture of peace, to think different looking at how we were being brought up with different perceptions of hating our neighbours, other tribes for one reason or the other,” he said.

Most of the schools that participated were the ones relocated to the state capital from the vulnerable areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The club is to sensitise other students through drama, discussions; therefore, he urge parents to enrol the girl-child into school.

Gender-based violence

Meanwhile gender-based violence (GBV) has been described as the phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality and one of the most notable human rights violations within all societies.

Though both women and men experience gender-based violence but investigation by Blueprint reveals that majority of victims are women and girls.

Some consider the violence against women as a social construction by men especially in the African context where families show an obvious preference for sons over daughters.
In fact, society views sons as a credit to their family, while families that have only daughters are often times stigmatised.

These societal norms set girls up to grow into women with low self worth and low self esteem, thereby perpetuating a never-ending cycle of violence.

Basically, where a woman could not give birth to a male child, she is subjected to abuse and mockery by her husband’s relatives and the society in which she lives.  In most homes, woman’s ability to bear a male child guarantees her marriage.

In order to reduce the gender-based violence especially against women, the UN project in the state also trained 25 officers of security agencies including the army, police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to discuss the root cause of GBV and take proactive measures towards addressing it among women.

At Gashua, for example, the Protection Empowerment and Resilience Building Project in partnership with the UN and the government of Japan carried out atraining that was tailored-made and designed for stakeholders such astraditional leaders, religious leaders, security actors, judicial actors, women groups and CSOs in Bade LGA to effectively respond to gender-based violence in the state.

The training was facilitated by a gender specialist from Gender Equality Peace and Development Centre in Maiduguri. She led the participants to discuss the concept of gender and gender-based violence, its forms and types using findings from the study conducted by SFCG on access to justice from both the formal as well as the informal sectors by survivors of GBV.

The training identified some bottle necks as well as opportunities for improved response to GBV which led participants into developing action plans to effectively prevent and respond to cases of GBV.

State government’s efforts

In September, 2018, the state governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, signed into law the State Penal Code Amendment Law 2018, which prescribed punishment for rape, kidnapping and unnatural offences which were becoming rampant in the state.

The law was to curtail and ensure the protection of societal morality, while at the same time calling on every member of the society to acknowledge the relevance of morality to the sustenance of societal discipline.

The governor said the bill he signed into law made provision for the amendment of Section 282 of the Penal Code to institute the maximum punishment for rapists, kidnappers and those who commit unnatural offences.

“The law stipulates clearly that whoever commits rape, where the victim is a minor, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and where the victim is an adult, shall be jailed for a term of 25 years.”

The commissioner of Police in the state, Sumonu Abdulmaliki, had also told journalists that cases of rape and violence against women had reduced drastically after signing the bill into law though some complained that it had not yet taken effect at the high court while at the magistrate court, its no longer under its jurisdiction, hence the perpetrators feel free to commit all sorts of violence against women.

What must be noted by all is regaining the dignity of women which  is acollective responsibility where governments, non-governmental organsations, religious leaders, groups and individuals must work to hand-in-hand to ensure that they are protected because, as they noted, any violence against women, will affect the well-being of the society.

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