On Tuesday, March 22, 2016, HACEY Health Initiative, a Lagos based development organization with the vision of promoting a sustainable society, hosted a parallel event during the just concluded UN Women 60th session on the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters, New York. The session which was titled “Leveraging on Innovation and Cross-Sector Collaboration to End Violence Against Women and Girls: Impact, Strategies and Opportunities” brought together 5 speakers and about 47 participants from around the world to discuss issues around Violence against Women and Girls from the Research, Policies and Programs perspectives in a panel discussion that lasted about 100mins. The moderator of the session, Mr. Paul Ojajuni, the Director of Research, HACEY Health Initiative hosted the panel discussion and engaged the speakers and participants in a knowledge sharing discussion. The speakers he hosted are: Rebecca Gordon, Together for Girls; jerker Edstrom, Institute of Development Studies, UK; Olusola Owonikoko, Mandela Washington Fellow/Project Enable; Elizabeth Okomu, Women Deliver Young Leader; and Isaiah Owolabi, HACEY Health Initiative.
Mr Jerker addressed the role of men in ending violence against women and girls from his experience as a researcher, stated that beyond the fact that the perpetrators of violence are overwhelmingly men and boys, the construction s of masculinity work across individual, communities and societal levels to shape sexual and gender based violence. He also highlighted the evidence on different roles of men and boys as Diversity, Intersexuality, Complexity and Change. He added that most effective strategies in ending violence against women and girls do not see men as stereotypes while but sees the starting point for engaging men for women’s empowerment in approaches located in shared interests between women and men. Ms Rebecca shared from the works of Together for Girls, highlighting some cities that recently launched their gender response desk to include Lagos state.
Ms. Elizabeth also discussed her work against gender based violence in Kenya highlighting the fact that many communities have accepted gender based violence by normalizing violence; as a result, most women and girls who have been raped have the higher tendencies to the raped again. She added that empowering girls and women should be done strategically so that it doesn’t lead to more violence as a result of threats to patriarchy. Olusola Owonikoko, a Mandela Washington Fellow who has worked to protect the rights of girls and women with disabilities in Nigeria shared the recent documentary that was produced by Project Enable, an initiative. He stated that as bad and evil as gender based violence may be, violence against women and girls with disability is worst and more evil. This is due to the fact more women and girls are suffering from domestic and gender based violence due to their double vulnerability: on the account of their gender and disability. He identifies inclusiveness of policies and programs as a major key to ending violence against men and women.
As the Project Director of HACEY Health Initiative, Isaiah Owolabi shared the reach and impact of the works of HACEY against gender based violence in Nigeria, highlighting the use of mobile technology and safe space as innovations engaged by HACEY to get more rape cases reported, towards ending violence against girls and women. Participants which included members of parliaments, researchers, policy makers, leaders of organization working against gender based violence asked their questions and also shared experiences and examples of innovations and strategies that are working in ending gender based violence against women and girls. The event which took place at the Boss Room of the Church Centre of the United Nations came to end at about 10:15am with networking and photo sessions.
Special appreciations to Together for Girls and Access Bank plc for supporting the event. And to USAID/IREX for supporting one of the speakers, Olusola Owonikoko to speak as a panellist during the session. Some pictures from the session can be seen below.