By Nansel Samuel
Gender and Disability-Based Violence (GDBV) is an urgent global concern, and Nigeria is no exception to this troubling trend. Despite existing legal frameworks designed to protect the rights of women and girls, violence remains alarmingly prevalent due to a complex web of underlying factors.
Survivors of GBV often face formidable obstacles in accessing affordable, high-quality support services. The scarcity of well-funded GBV referral centers, coupled with their limited capacity, exacerbates this issue. Even when these centers are available, sociocultural norms and the fear of stigma and discrimination create significant barriers for women and girls seeking assistance. This climate of stigma and fear also leads to widespread underreporting of GBV cases, meaning that official data only reveals a fraction of the true problem.
Addressing these multifaceted challenges requires a comprehensive approach. At the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), we are committed to tackling the persistent issues faced by women and girls with disabilities. Through our Amplifying Voices project, generously supported by the Ford Foundation, we are nurturing young advocates who are engaging their communities on the critical issues of gender and disability-based violence.
The young advocates, driven by their passion for social justice and equality, have emerged as powerful change agents in the fight against GDBV. Their energy, innovative ideas, and determination bring fresh perspectives to the table. These advocates leverage social media platforms, community workshops, and awareness campaigns to challenge harmful norms and promote inclusivity. Their grassroots approach resonates deeply with local communities, sparking conversations about the intersections of gender and disability in the context of violence.
On the other hand, the inter-agency task force comprises government bodies, law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to operate as a coordinated unit, pooling resources, expertise, and influence to combat GBDV. What sets our initiative apart is the strong bond between our grassroots advocates and the inter-agency task force, ensuring that access to essential services and interventions is becoming seamless and effective in Delta and Oyo States.
The synergy between youth advocates and the inter-agency task force yields remarkable outcomes. First, their collaboration has led to a greater understanding of the nuanced challenges faced by survivors of GDBV. This insight has informed many organizational structural adjustments in their operations to capture data on PWDs in their services and the development of support mechanisms that cater to the specific needs of survivors with disabilities.
Moreover, the combined efforts of these two groups have given rise to innovative awareness campaigns that challenge stereotypes and misconceptions. The use of storytelling, art, and digital media has proven effective in changing mindsets and encouraging reporting. In rural areas where access to information is limited, youth advocates have played a pivotal role in disseminating knowledge about rights and available resources.
Additionally, the collaboration is leading to a more efficient response to reported cases of GDBV. The inter-agency task force benefits from the on-the-ground insights of youth advocates, who often have direct contact with survivors. This accelerates the process of providing medical, legal, and psychological support, creating a network of care that is both swift and empathetic.
The future holds the promise of further progress in eradicating GDBV and creating a more inclusive environment. We welcome all and sundry to join in this crucial mission to address violence against women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria.