The European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative driven by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has held community dialogue and road show in Odukpani local government area of Cross River State to raise awareness on the need to speak – up against Violence Against Children (VAC), Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and Gender Based Violence (GVB).
The two days events took place between the 20th and 21st September, 2023, and had community stakeholders and members as well as some service providers in Odukpani local government area converged at the Pavilion of the Council Secretariat for a dialogue session on the need to speak-up against Violence Against Children (VAC), and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
Participants of the meeting comprised of adolescent boys and girls, adult males and adult females who are keen about making change in their respective communities.
Speaking at the event, the Public Relations Officer of Child Protection Network (CPN), Cross River State, Asari Nakanda, said the dialogue was to create awareness on violence against children, women and girls, their types and effects, as well as awareness on child protection service providers in the LGA.
She also said that the dialogue would enable participants identify and address factors hindering reportage of child abuse and SGBV in the communities.
Addressing a session on child abuse, its types and effects, Mrs. Grace Effiom, a CPN member in Odukpani, emphasized on the various types of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect) and then gave opportunities to the participants to mention the various types that are prevalent in their communities.
Some of the types of abuse mentioned were child labor, specifically as it relates to physical and sexual abuse of children, pornography and rape. Through the session, many participants stated the role of dressing in the occurrence of rape. Responding on this, one of the adolescent boys mentioned that dresses girls wear make them prone to rape, as they will seem attractive to the opposite sex which will instigate rape. This brought up heated argument among participants as some gave reasons why dressing should not be used to justify rape.
Concluding on the argument, the CPN State PRO, explained rape and its various forms as well as the root causes of rape of which she emphasized on the power relation between the perpetrators and the survivor. She also stated incidents where babies, full dressed women as well as older women were raped.
Mrs. Effiom continued the session by enumerating the various effects of child abuse of which she mentioned poor mental health, injuries, death etc. She ended her session by stating that perpetrators of all types of abuse are liable to punishments depending on the abuse as inscribed in the Child Rights Law 2023 of Cross River State.
On his part, the CPN Coordinator for Odukpani LGA, Apostle Leonard Ekpenyong, who facilitated discussions on the various factors hindering access to child protection service providers in the LGAs, elicited response from participants who mentioned the lack of knowledge of the existence of the service providers, accessibility to service providers as challenges negating effective reporting of SGBV in the LGA.
Responding, the Clan Head of Odukpani Qua, His Highness, Ntoe Sylvanus Eyamba, stated clearly that the traditional leaders have no powers to try cases of sexual abuse. He referenced cases of sexual abuse he had handled alongside the CPN Coordinator in the LGA and their outcomes.
The monarch stated that traditional leaders could mediate on issues of child labor, neglect, physical abuse if they are not very serious but that rape was not in the purview of traditional leaders to handle. He, therefore, encouraged community members to report such cases to the palace when they occur and then it will be referred to the Police which will then be followed up by the Palace.
The event was wrapped up with a road show on the 21st September, where participants took the route from the Council Secretariat into the villages up to the Calabar Highway with several stops at the NYSC roundabout, the market square and the Primary Health Care Centre.
They distributed fliers and explained the various messages to create awareness on child abuse, violence against women and girls and also encouraged community members to report such cases whether suspected or actual cases.