By Diana Omueza/Ruth Oketunde
The Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls, an NGO, has trained no fewer than 40 traditional rulers in Gwagwalada Area Council, Abuja, on combating sexual and gender-based violence in their domain.
The Executive Director of the group, Mrs Abiodun Essiet, said the training was to create more awareness at the grassroots on the spate of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and its consequences.
The One-day training themed “Strengthening traditional justice system of FCT original inhabitants to combat sexual and gender-based violence” also harped on the Violence Against Person Prohibition (VAPP) Act and the Child’s Right Act.
Essiet said strengthening the capacity of traditional rulers to combat all forms of violence, especially those against women and girls was paramount in curbing the act.
“What we are doing is creating awareness and strengthening the capacity of the traditional rulers in the community on how to curb sexual and gender-based violence
“And because the traditional rulers are mostly men, we have some of their wives here to share their experiences as well as get the right knowledge to help guide their activities as mothers and wives.
“We are particularly strengthening their knowledge on the traditional Justice system and restorative justice and on the violence Against Person Prohibition (VAPP) Act and the Child Right Act.
“We believe this is how we can address the issues of domestic violence, sexual and gender-based violence at the grassroots, especially with the alarming rate of such acts” she said.
She urged the traditional rulers to instill the knowledge gained on its followers, especially sensitization on legal consequences attached to rape, sexual harassment, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, amongst others.
She disclosed that the training would run for two years across the six area councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to her, the group has a grant to run this training programme for two years across the FCT with the support of the MacArthur Foundation.
“We have done the first training in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and in Bwari Area Council and we are currently in Gwagwalada and Kuje, next is Abaji and Kwali Area Councils.
“The goal is to equip all the traditional rulers in the FCT on how to address these issues and to also link them with other institutions like the social welfare who offer the same services within the community.
“By doing this, they would know where to report these cases and how to follow up to ensure that justice is gotten for the victim and the perpetrator is prosecuted accordingly,” she said.
Alhaji Husseini Balarabe, District Head Tunga-Maje community in Gwagwalada commended the group for recognizing the need to train traditional rulers on ways to combat sexual and gender-base violence.
“We have been trained to safeguard our children, especially the females. We have been equipped with the right information on how to handle issues of rape, domestic violence and other abuses and now we know the steps to take in such situations,” he said.
Alhaji Shuaibu Iliya, District head of Angwe community in Kuje Area council, also lauded the initiative of the group to train traditional rulers on ways to help curb sexual and gender-based violence.
“It is a commendable program and we would return to our communities and step down the knowledge,” he said.
Mrs Zuliat Bala, however, appealed to the traditional leaders to encourage men to empower their wives with skills and ensure that female children were given equal right and access to education.