Thursday 25th November marked the beginning of 19 Days of Activism with the theme “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now!” and it is heartwarming to see that more people are raising their voices to eradicate violence against women and girls. I add my voice to that of millions of heroes all over the world to say that harnessing the strength of women is a necessity if the war against domestic, sexual and gender based violence is to be won. This is so because all over the world, women occupy a vintage position that can be directed towards canvassing for positive changes in the society including the eradication of human trafficking, irregular migration, sexual and gender based violence.
As already known, women and girls constitute a large percentage of the number of people trafficked from Africa and other continents of the world and this exposes them to all forms of abuse and violence. Research has also proven that poverty, lack of vocational opportunities, ignorance, etc. are some of the many causes of SGBV and human trafficking and so economic empowerment for women and girls should be encouraged as well as recognizing and valuing women’s paid and unpaid work at all levels, this way a level play ground is created for both genders to thrive.
Likewise, provision of better paid employment and business opportunities for women consistent with market trends and in non conventional sectors is a great way of fighting this war. I am glad to witness the rising of women on various career ladders. Today, many women are breaking barriers and achieving giant strides as heads of banks, MDs, CEOs of companies, etc. And I must say that women are born leaders, therefore whatever they pilot thrives.
There should also be awareness creation among women stakeholders to recognize and claim their economic rights, including the right to sustainable livelihoods through employment access to skills, information and markets. It is important that women understand that they also have the right to demand for the same opportunities that are given to men. For instance, there are no separate examination for boys and girls in schools. They are all made to sit for the same examination and in many cases, girls even perform better academically, therefore, equal opportunities should be provided outside the school environment.
Gender and right awareness raising for families and communities to transform attitudes to gender roles and women’s rights will assist a lot. This way, the society begins to see the female child as equal partners in progress rather than objects that can be trafficked and exploited.
Macro policies that provide for basic infrastructural facilities like safe, clean and adequate water, social services like free or subsidized child care, health services, and those that promote the use of appropriate and affordable labour saving technologies, all aimed at reducing women’s domestic work burdens should be encouraged in other to give women the physical, mental and psychological health and time needed to carry on other self development ventures.
There is a cliché that says when you educate a man, you educate an individual but when you educate a woman, you educate a nation and like I always say, educating a woman is educating a generation. Therefore, providing educational opportunities for women and girls creates an enabling environment for sustainable livelihood and resilience.
Equal opportunities and improved access to formal education for women, girls and boys at all levels and in non conventional streams that ensures a match between better education and available job opportunities as well as infusing skill acquisition trainings so that upon graduation, they are empowered to become self reliant before obtaining white collar jobs should be developed. Gender and human rights concerns (including themes like trafficking, irregular migration, etc.) should be incorporated into school curricular.
Educational empowerment should also include life skills and resilience training that raises awareness and provides assertiveness and self defense training so that going girls are equipped with the necessary training needed for self defense.
Social security and protection of women and children at risk should be enforced. Protective measures such as counseling, education, alternative institutional or foster care, community support for vulnerable class etc. should be made a priority.
Prompt persecution of traffickers should be encouraged to discourage the crime of human trafficking. In the process of prosecution, witness should be given adequate protection.
We must also provide support and holistic assistance for voluntary returnees and ensure that they are properly reintegrated into the society to prevent people from exploiting their vulnerability
All women have a leadership roles to play in securing the future of women and girls and we must step up our game in kicking trafficking out of Nigeria.
Women need to take action or advocate for change which educates, empowers and enables women and girls to reach their fullest potentials. Women with or without leadership position must become ladders that will aid other women and girls attain greater heights.
The fastest way to change society is by empowering women; when you empower women you empower humanity, let this change begin with you and I and let it begin today as a stitch in time saves mine. If you see something, say something and do something to end violence now!