Federal Government will collaborate with European Union (EU) and UN to end violence against women and girls in the country, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Earnest Umakhihe, says.

The permanent secretary disclosed this during Inception Workshop on EU-UN Joint Spotlight Initiative held in Abuja on Thursday.

Umakhihe said the joint efforts would address the challenge of Gender Based Violence (GBV), to be steered by the ministry to guide the implementation of programme in alignment with national priorities.

He added that “the Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, with emphasis on achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, SDG 5 in particular.”

According to him, the programme is vital to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, as encapsulated in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

He said “violence against women and girls is endemic and cannot be ignored."

It is expressed through harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, early and forced marriages, coerced sex and psychological abuses, including bullying and harassment. 

“All these result from some cultural and social beliefs, attitudes and practices that prevent girls from discovering their potential that should enable them to contribute to the economic development of the nation.”

The Permanent Secretary, FCT Administration (FCTA), Mr Chinyeaka Ohaa, said the initiative would complement and support existing programmes aimed at eliminating violence against women and girls.

He said “the worst form of abuse is abuse against vulnerable persons in the society and these are mostly women and girls. It is about time we wake up and not only speak against this evil, but also take concrete action against it.

“When you see something, please say something. Keeping silent only emboldens the aggressors and perpetrates the cycle of violence and repression,’’ he said.

On her own part, Mrs Ifeoma Anagboju, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, said the workshop would provide platform for stakeholders to fashion ways to end violence against women and girls.

Anagboju, represented by a senior official in the ministry, Mrs Victoria Lar, decried the challenges of advancing gender equality, which shows Nigeria ranking 118 out of 134 countries on the gender equality index.

She said “inadequate inclusion of women and girls perspectives in policy making decisions, resource allocation and implementation in economic and social sectors based continue to challenge the advancement of gender equality.

“More than 70 per cent of women live below the poverty line, with maternal mortality ratio at 576 per 100,000 and of the estimated 3.2 million Nigerians living with HIV, 55 per cent are women.  

“Enrollment of girls in school ranges from one third to one quarter of classroom participants and out of the 10.5 million out of school children, two-thirds are girls.”

She, therefore, reiterated the commitment of the ministry toward protecting the rights of women and girls, as well as protect them against violence and abuse.

Meanwhile, Laolu Olawumi, the Programme Manager of EU and Focal Person of the initiative, said the union had since 2017, set aside investments to enable it to champion the course of the initiative.

Olawumi stressed the need for more proactive measures on women and girl-child issues to eradicate violence and abuse against them.

Similarly, Mr Kwasi Amankwaah, the Head of UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Nigeria, said five UN agencies — UNDP, UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNESCO would support the programme.

He added that six states selected from each geo-political zone, namely — Sokoto, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Lagos, Cross -River and the FCT, would champion the implementation of the programme.