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Women’s rights are human rights – UNIC

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Women’s rights are human rights – UNIC

It was an onset of the harmattan season on a dusty December morning last week in Zaria, Kaduna State, North-West Nigeria. The students, all girls, arrived in droves, eager to participate and host an educational briefing on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in their school, Government Girls Secondary School, Fada Zaria City. The educational briefing was organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos in collaboration with UN Women and Arewa Women And Youth Empowerment (AWAYE) Foundation.

Excited by the gift of thousands of orange scarfs and a few branded T-shirts to ‘Orange the world’, the students, numbering more than 2,500, assembled and carved out a space for their drama presentation on ending violence against women and girls.

They set the ball rolling quickly and set the stage on fire as they highlighted, through drama presentation, issues of domestic violence, sexual harassment in school, girl-child labour, and challenges of girls’ health, among others. In all these, the importance of the traditional institution was emphasised as the Emir’s scene was constantly on the front burner.

“Women’s rights are human rights. When a woman’s rights are violated, then her human rights have been infringed upon. Today we bring the message of ending violence against women & girls.” The National Information Officer of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, took the cue from the drama presentations. He emphasised that domestic violence was not a family affairs but a human rights issue.

He noted that the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence started November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and would end December 10, the Human Rights Day. Explaining the 2017 theme, ‘Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Girls’. Dr Soremekun said that it ‘reinforces the UNiTE Campaign’s commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world, while reaching the most underserved and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, amongst others, first.’

According to him, leaving no one behind, specifically women and girls that are threatened by or are suffering violence, or have been subjected to it in the past, requires resources, policies, commitments and programmes that focus on reaching the most marginalized communities. To end violence against women and bring change, the National Information Officer urged the students to raise their voices and speak out against any act of gender-based violence.
Speaking, Ms Iris Nxumalo, representing UN Women, highlighted the need for determination to speak out and bring change. She urged everyone, “Let’s Say ‘NO’ and UNiTE to End Violence Against Women and Girls during and after the 16 days of activism period.”

Addressing the students, the Principal of Government Girls Secondary School, Fada Zaria, Hajiya Safiya Abdul, thanked the UN team for the educational programme and informed the students that all women and girls deserve to live a life free from violence and fear. She implored them to report any act of gender-based violence directed at them.
In her remarks, the Founder of AWAYE, Hajiya Laila Muhammad urged the students to speak out against gender-based violence.

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