The first bi-annual national steering committee meeting for the Spotlight Initiative in 2020 is set to hold in Abuja on Friday, June 5 to back a national action to end violence against women and girls amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee, which was set up to provide overall strategic policy and political direction on the implementation of the spotlight programme, is also responsible for improving coordination and accountability in the three-way partnership among the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the Government of Nigeria.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and Secretary/member of the Spotlight Initiative Steering Committee, Mrs Olusola Idowu, had indicated in the invitation to participants that the one-hour-fifteen-minute meeting would hold at the United Nations’ Auditorium in Abuja.
Members of the committee and participants at the meeting include Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Paulen Tallen, who will give a special remark; and, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, who will give the welcome address.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon; the EU Ambassador to Nigeria and Head of the delegation, Mr Karisen Ketil; the Country Representative, UN Women, Mrs Comfort Lamptey; the National President of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Rhoda Prevail Tyoden will attend.
Others expected to take part in the meeting either physically or through virtual connection are Country Representative of UNFPA; Civil Society Reference Group member; Director of International Cooperation, Ministry of Budget and National Planning; Head of the United Nations Resident Coordinators Office; EU Spotlight desk Officer; Nigerian Spotlight Coordinator (RCO-Spotlight Management Unit) and Monitoring and Reporting Analyst (RCO- Spotlight Management Unit).
The meeting is to discuss what more could be done by the Nigerian Government, the UN, the EU and other partners to prevent and address the systemic abuse of women and girls in Nigeria.
Coming amid reports from around the country, suggesting an increase in sexual and gender-based violence during the COVID-19 period, the meeting, according to information from the Secretariat “hopes to bring focussed attention to this issue, moving it into the spotlight and placing it at the centre of national efforts to achieve gender equality and women empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.”
Coordinator of Spotlight Initiative in Nigeria, Hadiza Aminu Dorayi, said that “the programme is helping the Nigerian Government to dedicate efforts in the course of the national COVID-19 response towards setting up domestic violence shelters, call-in lines, including text services so that reports of abuse can take place discreetly, online legal support and psychological services for women and girls.”
“Through the Spotlight Initiative, UN Country Teams, hand-in-hand with relevant partners, are shifting programming to the current context: moving services and campaigns online, scaling up support to civil society organisations on the frontline of response, ensuring that domestic violence shelters can stay open, and developing online and text-based peer support to women’s organisations providing services and who are at risk with the shift in funding priorities,” she added.
In their preliminary declarations, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Agba, said Nigeria remained committed to protecting and supporting women and girls.
According to him, “In this unprecedented and unpredictable global crisis, Nigeria remains committed to protecting and supporting women and girls,” adding “addressing gender-based violence remains at the centre of all domestic plans on COVID-19 response.”
He stated that both the Nigerian government and its partners were making efforts to have integrated funding to deal with violence against women as part of the plans to counter the damaging fallout from COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Tallen said: “My concern today is for all women across the world who are suffering even more now due to the extra-economic and social stresses caused by a radical shift away from normal life. “This stress is leading to an increased danger of violence. Before this pandemic broke out, statistics showed that one in three women will experience violence in their lives. It is clear that when women and girls are locked down in their homes with abusive partners, they are at much greater risk than ever before.”
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