UN Women Urges Radical Change to End Gender-Based Violence in West Africa

At the Inaugural Annual High-Level Gender-Based Violence Prevention Summit in Abuja, Ms. Beatrice Eyong, UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, emphasized the urgent need to challenge practices and cultural norms that perpetuate violence and undermine the human rights of women and girls in Africa.

Ms. Eyong stressed the importance of a radical shift in mindsets to eradicate violence against women and girls, noting that despite some progress, women in West Africa still face significant disadvantages. “Over 40% of women in West Africa experience physical and/or sexual violence, with many normalizing such abuse,” she said, highlighting the persistence of harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.

She praised the Ford Foundation’s partnership in the LEAP program, which focuses on ending gender-based violence through advocacy, policy changes, and challenging harmful social norms. “GBV is not only a violation of women’s rights but also a barrier to economic growth and stability,” Eyong stated. She called for solidarity and commitment from traditional and religious leaders to push back against threats to women’s rights, such as the potential repeal of the FGM law in The Gambia.

Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Ohaneye-Kennedy, echoed these sentiments, urging collective action to protect women’s rights. “The suffering of women must be addressed by everyone, especially with the support of traditional and religious leaders,” she said.

Dr. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, also called on traditional and religious leaders to unite against harmful practices. “We must work together for peace, stability, and justice,” he urged, emphasizing the readiness of traditional institutions to be proactive and progressive.

Ford Foundation President, Mr. Darren Walker, reiterated the need for continued investment in preventing GBV to create a more equitable society. “Gender equality is crucial for positive change in Nigeria and West Africa,” he said, advocating for a society free from violence and discrimination.

The summit, organized by UN Women and the Ford Foundation, aimed to assess past commitments and develop strategies for legislative and policy advocacy to eliminate gender-based violence.

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