Experts advocate breaking silence to end SGBV

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A gender expert, Mrs Esther Eghobamien-Msheila says cultural stereotypes and myths are real and should be eliminated to break silence and have a gender-based free society.

Eghobamien-Msheila, Vice-Chairperson, United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (UN-CEDAW), said this during a webinar on Wednesday in commemoration of International Women’s Day.

The webinar organised by Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship Alumni Association (HHHFAA), Nigeria, with the theme: ‘Breaking the Silence on Domestic Abuse.’

Eghobamien-Msheila noted that no country in the world has fully eliminated discrimination against women and girls, or achieved full gender equality.

According to her, discrimination persists in all areas of life and transcends national, cultural and religious boundaries, often fueled by patriarchal stereotypes, economic deprivations, threats, among others.

She said that research had shown that GBV has significant lifelong impacts on a person’s health and well-being.

Eghobamien-Msheila noted that the economic costs are tremendous and estimated at two per cent of global Gross Domestic Product.

“Keeping quiet in the face of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) erodes trillions of dollars from countries, we must work together to break the culture of silence,” she said.

Eghobamien-Msheila said that the challenge of providing evidence was a major issue that contributed to the culture of silence by survivors of SGBV in Nigeria.

She said that some NGOs are training survivors of SGBV on using digital tools to gather evidence and upskilling them economically to make them financially independent.

Also, Mrs Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency, said the state government had declared zero tolerance for all form of SGBV crimes.

Vivour-Adeniyi said the state does this through a multidisciplinary approach of enacting laws and policies geared toward preventing and providing support to survivors of SGBV.

According to her, statistics have shown that 70 per cent of survivors economically depend on their abusers, thus making some of them choose to remain in an abusive relationship.

She said that the state government initiated an empowerment programme for survivors to serve as a pathway to new beginnings, financial independence and encourage more survivors to speak out.

Vivour-Adeniyi stressed that the state’s law protects survivors of SGBV from all forms of discrimination, stigmatisation and ensure that they have access to medical legal and counseling assistance.

Similarly, Dr Funmi Akinola, the Chief Consultant Psychiatrist, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Oshodi, said more awareness and collaboration was required to support survivors of SGBV.

Akinola said that violence could have lifelong impacts on a person’s health and well-being, noting that psychological effects are rarely seen but have devastating effects.

According to her, the effects can include physical and mental health conditions such as anger, guilt, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and death.

Akinola said support should be provided to survivors in getting them to a safe house and rebuilding their self-esteem on their road to healing.

Also, Mrs Abosede Oyeleye, President, HHHFAA Nigeria, said violence undermines the safety and dignity of women and girls.

Oyeleye, however, called for increased enlightenment on the need for mutual respect among citizens.