By G9ija

The Canadian High Commission and Connected Development (CODE) on Tuesday, strengthened their partnership to galvanise mass action against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the country.

The Acting Canadian High Commissioner, Kelvin Tokar, stated this at a news conference in Abuja, for the launch of the second phase of  `Galvanising Mass Action Against  Gender-Based Violence in Kano (GMAA-K) campaign.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the step was taken to tackle the high prevalence of SGBV in northern Nigeria with the aim to mobilise the population against its menace.

It was to also to empower survivors and seek the adoption of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) and the Child Rights Act in Kano.

According to Tokar, Canada was delighted to announce the continuation of its partnership with CODE in the campaign against SGBV in Nigeria.

He said that it was a fact that far too many women, girls and boys in Nigeria had been subjected to physical sexual violence at least once in their lives.

“This violence has long lasting social, health and economic effects that can span generations often leading to circles of violence with families and communities.

“It is a crisis in Nigeria that we must condemn and work together to end.

“Over the past few years, we have seen a number of states pass and start to implement the VAPP Act which has given us hope, although not all states have achieved this important milestone so much more work is needed ’’, Tokar said.

He, therefore, said that the Canadian partnership with CODE was necessary in order to continue its work in Kano state, to galvanise support for the implement of the VAPP and Child Rights Act and enable CODE work at community level to provide support to survivors of SGBV and continue to work to end it .

Chief Executive Officer, CODE, Hamzat Lawal, said that with the high record of SGBV in northern Nigeria, one of the CODE’s aim was to work towards enacting the law that protected vulnerable people, particularly in  rural communities .

Lawal said that in the first quarter of 2021, CODE worked towards the adoption of the VAPP Act in Kano state and recorded successes in engaging the government.

“Today, with our collaboration with and support from Canada, we have been able to harmonise and incorporate the VAPP Act into the Penal Code law, in order to reconcile the provisions.

“It is to also have one singular comprehensive law that addresses SGBV, the legal document is pending validation and enactment by the Kano state Assembly.’’

Lawal added that CODE had also empowered and trained over 30 female advocates for its galvanising action and engaging various key stakeholders in the state.

CODE ran radio programmes, using local language and English, to educate people on how these laws would be implemented so that they could add their voices to the SGBV campaign, Lawal said, adding that the organisation’s main target in the second phase was to tackle SGBV, using the budget of the state .

“We believe that putting the necessary  mechanism will be inspired by the budget appropriation and provision that goes to the state assembly and implemented by the executive and this is something that we hope to achieve in the second phase of the support from Canada.’’

He also stated that CODE had identified the predominant factors causing SGBV in Kano, to include lack of a  comprehensive law, non access to justice, creation of a sexual offender register, lack of a gender responsive budget, among others.

CODE would also work with stakeholders, like the Nigerian Governors Forum, to create a nationwide effect in tackling SGBV and work to ensure referral centres were created in all emirates and local government areas, according to Lawal.

Dr Halimah Sanda, said that SGBV  should be viewed as a public health issue because many survivors were left traumatised, and after being abused, had only a little support was provided for them.

Sanda said that SGBV was often regarded as a human rights violation, which was correct, but should also be viewed as a mental health issue because when no mental health support was provided to them, ”we harbour a mentally oppressed society’’