LOBBYING FOR THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND GIRLS IN NIGERIA
Written by Obialunamma E. Omekedo and illustrated by: Jessica Jide from Whisper to Humanity
The amount of resources that go into law making in Nigeria is unimaginable. For Imo state, this was six long years battling and lobbying for the passing of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill into an Act, an Act that protects women and girls from violence. Perhaps, some consolation lies in the fact that it took 14 years to pass the law at national level, with the law being acceded on 25th May 2015. Still, the long and laborious journey of the passing of the Bill has ushered in new hope of protection, justice and life for the women and girls of Imo state.
WHISPER TO HUMANITY
Is a youth-led feminist organization based from Nigeria building young feminists to be forces of change. Promoting feminist leadership and activism through education and training. Read more about Whispers to Humanity and follow their many great initiatives at: www.whispertohumanity.com
The passage of the law in Imo State would not have occurred, with all its struggles and challenges, without the tireless efforts of various organizations and individuals. Whisper to Humanity, one of the forefronting stakeholders championing the passage of this Law, as well as with allies, organized campaigns to mobilize and build support for the Bill. This saw Whisper involved in various meetings and negotiations, from court appearances to speaking at the public hearings, in a bid to uphold women’s rights.
The VAPP Act is one of the most progressive laws with a bold position on issues of violence against women and girls. This piece of legislation provides for the necessary promotion and protection of lives and dignity, additionally it is an indication of the local government’s commitment to gender equality. With the Act in place, survivors of violence and their families are now emboldened to rightfully seek justice. It will serve as encouragement to other states and advocates pushing for the passage of the law to break all boundaries to ensure women and girls and other vulnerable populations are protected through law and policy.
Our determination in passing this law was sparked by the results in 2020 when Honourable Uju Onwudiwe reintroduced the Bill in Imo state parliament. The Bill at the time faced a lot of backlash, with some likening it to the acceptance of gay and pro-abortion rights, that the majority nearly succeeded in having the bill annulled. This pushed Whisper to Humanity into action through the hosting and organizing of meetings with the sponsor of the Bill and several other key stakeholders, including ActionAid Nigeria and United Nations Girls Initiative amongst others. Whisper to Humanity attended the public hearing of the Bill to ensure the voice and aspirations of women and girls of Imo state were heard.
This law is especially important given the increasing damage to human dignity and self-worth especially of vulnerable women and girls through the act of violence in Imo State and at national level. According to National Demographic Survey 2019, Imo State has a high record of violence against women and minors, at 41.4%, only second to Ebonyi state at 54.7%. Additional evidence from Statista Research Department shows that between 2012 and 2018, 18% of females in Nigeria were married before the age of 15, with 44% of girls married before the age of 18, in contrast to men who were married before the age of 18 at just 3%. This number is said to increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is evident that we can no longer be quiet about this, as we confront unprecedented violence the work has only just begun. There are unbroken grounds that need to be covered. Important clauses left out of the bill are still being fought for. Rights such as abortion rights, sexual freedom and security for other sexualities were voted out by law makers. As we continue to push for the nationwide implementation of the VAPP law by holding all state and non-state actors accountable, we pledge to not leave other issues behind. We invite you to join us in advocating for enabling laws on sexual and reproductive health rights of all persons irrespective of sexual identity and orientation.
You can join Whisper to Humanity in ensuring the advancement of gender rights by sharing our blog posts, joining our virtual meetings, meeting up for campaigns, and ensuring you spread the word in your community. Remember, it can only start with you.
OBIALUNAMMA OMEKEDO is the blog and content manager at Whisper to Humanity. She’s a passionate writer, feminist and lover of good food and great conversations.