Violence against women and girls is defined as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women and girls, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Types of Gender-Based Violence:

Gender-based violence can be physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, financial or mental. It includes female infanticide; widowhood rights, rape; intimate partner violence;  child sexual abuse; sex trafficking and forced labor; sexual coercion and abuse; neglect; domestic violence; financial abuse; and harmful traditional practices such as early and forced-child marriage, “honor” killings, and female genital mutilation/cutting.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 concerns gender equality and is fifth of the 17 SDGs, established by the United Nations in 2015. The official wording of SDG 5 is “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

Progress towards targets is measured by indicators. Gender-based violence (GBV) or violence against women and girls (VAWG), is a global pandemic that affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime.

The numbers are staggering:

35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

Globally, 7% of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner.

Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.

200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting.

This issue is not only devastating for survivors of violence and their families, but also entails significant social and economic costs. In some countries, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP – more than double what most governments spend on education.

Failure to address  gender based violence entails a significant cost for the future.  Numerous studies have shown that children growing up with violence are more likely to become survivors themselves or perpetrators of violence in the future.

One characteristic of gender-based violence is that it knows no social or economic boundaries and affects women and girls of all socio-economic backgrounds: this issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries.

Decreasing violence against women and girls requires a community-based, multi-pronged approach, and sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders. The most effective initiatives address underlying risk factors for violence, including social norms regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence.

Gender equality is a fundamental and inviolable human right and women’s and girls’ empowerment is essential to expand economic growth, inclusion in electoral processes, promote social development and enhance business performance. Investing in women’s empowerment produces the double dividend of benefiting women and children, and is pivotal to the health and social development of families, communities and nations.

Empowering women and girls and achieving gender equality requires the concerted efforts of all stakeholders, including religious bodies. All stakeholders have baseline responsibilities to respect human rights, including the rights of women and girls. Beyond these baseline responsibilities, Religious bodies have the opportunity to significantly contribute to end violence against women and girls and support the empowerment of women and girls through social investment, public policy engagement and partnerships.

To adequately respond to the needs of battered women and rape victims, it is imperative that all relevant stakeholders  learn about violence against women and reach out to secular advocates and services. Likewise, it is imperative that secular advocates and counsellors appreciate the importance of women’s religious backgrounds and reach out to clergy and religious groups to find resources to meet the needs of victims. Religious, Traditional & Political Leaders also can utilize their positions in the community to help shape the discussion of issues concerning violence against women.

We can’t achieve true development when a significant number of the population are marginalized and continue to suffer abuse.

CSOs and faith based organizations can galvanise and relate safe spaces for the transformative participation of women in decision making towards sustainable peace and development.

They can also be active game changers in high level advocacy, networking & coalition building and serve as first point of contact for victims of violence.

Inclusive & Sustainable Development cannot be achieved when a significant number of the population are not involved in governance. We need a fundamental change in who is leading and how we lead. Women must be involved at all levels, either as elected officials or appointed. True transformation and peace will be achieved come when there is a significant number of women participation in mediation capacity and how they contribute in greater detail in governance and all aspects of life.

When women are empowered, they reinvest in their families and communities, producing multiplier effect that spurs growth, peace and stability.

Nigerian women want and deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes abductions, , kidnappings and indeed all forms of violence(emotional, physical, financial, psychological, mental etc) .

We want a future that is sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all. We can all drive this change by calling on the government to pass the gender and equal opportunities bill,  amend the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria and commit to enforcing provisions of the law.