Yiaga Africa has called for an overhauling of mindsets regarding the rights of women and girls, emphasizing that deliberately equipping men and boys with the necessary education will empower them to become champions and promoters of women and girls’ rights.
Yetunde Bakare, Senior Programs Officer, Centre For Legislative Engagement, Yiaga Africa, stated this during a 2-day Working Group meeting on the review of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) in Lagos, under the Spotlight Initiative. She expressed her pleasure in the calibre of the members of the Working Group, emphasising that Yiaga Africa recognises their work on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), and how vital their progressive efforts are to achieving a Nigeria where women’s rights are recognised as human rights.
Speaking on the necessity of the review of the VAPP Act, Bamidele Anthony Ojo of the Nigerian Bar Association, stated that languages matter:
“It is important that we review this Act in order to establish that the Act duly protects women and girls,” he said.
He also lamented the poor enforceability of the provisions of the Act, given that many institutions and law enforcement agencies have very limited resources to carry out their stipulated activities.
Narrating her decades of experience in work on SGBV, Ene Ede, FCT VAPP Coordinator, advocated that part of the review of the VAPP Act must include strengthening of institutions and especially equipping frontliners. She said, “We must assess the capacity and quality of response of service providers to provide support to victims of violence.” She also highlighted the importance of adequate structures such as Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC), survivors’ trust funds and many other initiatives that are aimed at helping and rehabilitating victims of SGBV.
Dabiet Cornelius, Chief Prosecutor at National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) said that it was necessary for the Act to contain adequate punishment for offenders that will act as deterrent for future offences; and most importantly, justice for victims as well as rehabilitation and compensations where necessary. He expressed hope that as the VAPP Act continues to be reviewed and amended, many states would adopt it and draw from its provisions.
In his appreciation to the Working Group, Ibrahim Faruk, Programs Manager, Governance and Development, Yiaga Africa, noted that the outcome of the 2-day meeting will help in engaging the National Assembly as well as other relevant stakeholders. He praised the dedication of the group in doing a clause-by-clause review of the 48-section Act, and expressed hopes for future deliberations and synergy when each group is called upon.
The 2-day meeting had in attendance expert representatives from the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), TechHer, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mirabel Centre, National Assembly and others.
The Spotlight Initiative in Nigeria is funded by the European Union and the United Nations and aims to support a Nigeria where all women and girls, particularly the most vulnerable, live a life free from violence and harmful practices by addressing the linkages between sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices with related aspects of sexual and reproductive health and rights as a cross-cutting theme.