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Philanthropist made a call to tackle GBV

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By Mercy Kelani

Women empowerment will unlock immense potential for Nigeria and Africa.

A leading industrialist and philanthropist, Seinye Lulu-Briggs, called for the urgency to tackle gender-based violence (GBV), making a major development agenda in Nigeria. Lulu-Briggs stated that reducing and addressing this form of violence must be considered top priority in Nigeria. She made this call at the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA), where she spoke as the guest speaker. On October 25 this year, the event was organised in Port Harcourt to celebrate the 2023 Pan African Women’s Day and 16 Days of Activism to put an halt to gender-based violence.

“African Women in the 21st Century: Challenges and Prospects” was the theme for the event and a distinction award was given to O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation. This award was given as an appreciation to the NGO for safeguarding children and women, and also deploying selfless service to the public. Lulu-Briggs restated that one of the keys to unlocking the immense potential of Africa and Nigeria is through the empowerment of women. However, she said that one of the most vexing challenges encountered by African women, in the 21st century, is Gender-based violence.

Widows should not be unseen or at the hands of harmful traditions.

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in the rate of gender-based violence worldwide. Lulu-Briggs stated that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the African Union’s Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Charter on People’s and Human’s Rights have not shown improvement, despite most African countries ratifying them. Healthcare, education, credit and accessing land are the challenges faced by African women.

Also, the chairman of the O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation stated that the rampancy of intimate partner violence in Africa is around the range of 10 – 40 percent. She added that one out of three of Nigerian women has experienced female genital mutilation, forced or early marriage, mental and physical sexual assault and domestic violence at the age of 15. She said that widows should not be unseen or at the hands of harmful traditions and cultural practices, and not at the mercy of male dominance. She stated this while she recounted her awful widowhood experiences.

Scholarships were given to widows’ children to make them stay in school.

Moreover, she highlighted that her unpleasant, protracted and harrowing experience enlightened her on the pain and undue suffering of African women, in this century, because of their gender. Hence, she declared her interest to help vulnerable and weak women. According to the industrialist’s statement, she paid more attention to the predicament of widows since the time she lost her husband. Lulu-Briggs said that her exposure has explicitly gave meaning to her humanitarian work to lighten the predicament of the vulnerable, voiceless and underserved majority, in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Furthermore, she announced that the International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA Rivers Branch’s work was supported by the O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation to address violence and discrimination against women. Also, the partnership between AWLA and the Widows Support Project has enhanced the intervention to support the widows in River States with financial support for their businesses, skills training and pro-bono legal assistance. In addition, scholarships were given to their children to ensure that they stay in school.

More outreach and advocacy must be established.

Additionally, she declared that the Rivers State Widows Legal Assistance Toll-free 24/7 hotline- 0800 0023 111 initiated to help widows was launched on the International Widows Day, June 24, 2020. Human rights defenders and organisations, FIDA and AWLA inclusive, were appreciated for their support to end the suffering of widows, including their children. She restated that to tackle this discrimination and challenges, more outreach and advocacy must be established. She warned against the harassment or isolation of victims of gender-based violence. So, she encouraged that support should be provided for them to speak up and get assistance in the legal sector, including proper treatment.

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