Home Advocate Technology, smartphones promoting violence against girls – Gender Equality Advocate

Technology, smartphones promoting violence against girls – Gender Equality Advocate


Titilayo Ogunbambi, Gender Equality Advocate and Executive Director of Boundless Hands Africa Initiative, speaks with LARA ADEJORO on the need to end gender-based violence

The The federal government has made several commitments to end discrimination against women and gender-based violence. What is your assessment of his efforts so far?

Recently, Women’s Affairs Minister Pauline Tallen assured Nigerian women that the President would enforce the court ruling reserving 35% of appointments in public office to women’s groups. So far so good, the President has taken steps to end gender-based violence and support women’s issues in Nigeria. You will recall that during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, the Nigerian Governors Forum declared a state of emergency over the rising rate of sexual and gender-based violence in the country. The Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs is also doing good gender mainstreaming, including harmonizing GBV data to paint a clear picture for proper planning. We have seen a significant increase in the number of states that have incorporated the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, and the National Gender Equality Policy was also revised last year. More can be done by domesticating these laws and states, understanding the rights and roles of local government, and education is essential for all stakeholders. I recommend that everyone get on board and that gender continues to be a priority for government and all government agencies that have a role to play in ending GBV.

How would you say the VAPP Act has been successful so far in Nigeria?

We are making progress because some states have incorporated VAPP. The journey to achieving this progress has been rigorous, involving advocacy, dialogues, consultations, reviews, and more. Obviously there have been a lot of setbacks with some states, but I see progress with the law because it is the first to clearly prohibit all forms of violence against people in private and public life and provide protection maximum and effective remedies for victims and penalties for perpetrators. However, just like many other laws in Nigeria, the VAPP Act faces the problem of implementation and lack of funding, while some existing laws also contradict the law, for example, the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria, which allows husbands to beat their wives. for correctional purposes. We therefore need to ensure that other laws are properly amended to address the issues of overlapping laws in some states. To achieve the necessary progress, we must continue to engage all stakeholders. It is not just about making laws, cultural beliefs and traditional practices need to be eroded so that we can see change from the status quo and also demand accountability to ensure implementation by all stakeholders and service providers. It is not enough to pass the law, the gap in VAPP law enforcement is also critical and must be closed for us to see progress in addressing gender-based violence and achieving gender equality in Nigeria.

It seems that GBV reports mostly focus on women rather than men. Why is it so?

If gender-based violence affects more women than men, it is natural to see reports indicating that there are more women. GBV is a human rights violation and a public health issue that affects both men and women. Statistics have also shown that globally, as many as one in three women, while in Nigeria, 30% of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are believed to have been sexually abused. Due to social norms and beliefs about GBV, men and boys normally do not talk or report their encounters, so it is difficult to get accurate data that can answer the numbers question. It just means that we need more effort and necessary intervention on GBV against men.

What role does education play in preventing gender-based violence?

Education plays an important role in preventing and reducing gender-based violence. Studies have shown that women with at least a high school education are less likely than their uneducated peers to experience violence. Additionally, men with at least a high school education are less likely to commit acts of violence than their less educated peers. School, family and peer group represent one of the main agents of socialization during childhood to shape a child’s life. The education system must combine formal and non-formal education and vocational training, to have the potential to address gender inequalities and prevent GBV. The education system must strive to empower girls to decide where, when, with whom and how they want to define themselves as women and not follow socially established definitions. But more importantly, educating men to help them internalize that biological differences are not sufficient justification for viewing one sex (male) as superior to the other (female). Therefore, more important than detecting and acting on women’s sexist behavior is that boys learn that being born male does not, by nature, grant privileges over women.

As a gender equality advocate, what has your experience been?

Ten years ago, I started this plea where women who spoke out against inequality were called rebels. Family and friends wondered why gender equality was a problem. I knew that societies that value women and men as equals are safer and healthier and show greater economic growth. Although it is a difficult process, staying relevant while solving social problems can be a difficult and daunting task. What kept me going was the power gained through each experience and each life that was saved from the shadow of GBV. I have consistently equipped myself with relevant skills, knowledge and networks that have been instrumental in amplifying my work to remain consistent and sustainable. I have a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of Jos, Nigeria and a Master of Arts in International Development and Policy from the University of Chicago, USA. My career spans the private sector as a procurement professional in the oil and gas, telecommunications and public sector sectors. I also worked at Pathfinder International, supporting the Nigerian and Ethiopian portfolio, and interned at the United Nations Department of Global Communications. African section. My work is recognized globally as a multi-award winning Girls Advocate, a UN-Women Nigeria Beijing +25 Eaglet and a Mandela Washington Fellow 2021 selected by the United States Government as an Outstanding Young Leader of Sub-Saharan Africa.

It seems the world is drifting somewhat from physical GBV to social media GBV. What is your opinion on this?

Gender-based violence online can include, among other things, unwanted sexual remarks, non-consensual posting of sexual media, threats, doxing, cyberstalking and harassment, as well as gender-based discriminatory memes and messages. According to a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 38% of women felt threatened on social media, a percentage that climbs to 45% among millennials. In my opinion, physical GBV and GBV via social media are still encountered by people, especially young girls and adolescents. This has just been amplified by access. Before today, many people did not have access to so many digital platforms that are available today. The development created the accessibility to smartphones which allowed abusers to develop new forms of emotional blackmail and control. For example, from my childhood there were bullies in my schools and communities and I now believe that they have just found a more efficient way to accomplish their deeds.

The psychological impact of online violence and abuse is worrying, what can be done to stop it?

Education is the most effective strategy for measuring the psychological impact of online violence. Young children are exposed to internet use, so we need to catch them young. Focus on early age knowledge, skills and resilience, lessons in good internet use and positive life coping skills. And anyone affected by online violence should seek help through therapy. There is still a weak culture of seeking therapeutic help in Nigeria. Yet the best way to access expert therapy services is to research online, find available options, contact them, and ask questions to verify their qualifications before making a choice.

You founded the Boundless Hand Africa initiative for women and children in 2016. How many people have you been able to reach to advance gender equality issues?

Over the years, through various interventions, Boundless Hands Africa has advanced the health and well-being of women and girl survivors of gender-based violence by facilitating access to information, services and psychosocial support for sexual and reproductive health to survivors of sexual abuse, Nigerians living in underserved communities. We lead these efforts through capacity building, education, outreach programs, partnerships with service providers, and policy advocacy leveraging technology and media. We provided psychosocial support and access to justice to 178 women and girls, victims of sexual abuse, and implemented more than 28 education and awareness programs and empowerment initiatives that reached more than 25,000 people online and through our face-to-face programs.

You have launched a book on sexual and gender-based violence. What propelled you?

Having worked as a gender-based intervention expert for a decade, I have designed and implemented various interventions focused on GBV prevention and survivor support. In each case, I felt exactly the amount of pain the survivor felt. Any woman or man, regardless of age, skin color, religion, and economic or social status, is at risk of experiencing GBV, and the untold stories of GBV needed to be told. I wrote “Emerge”, an educational weapon to teach women and girls how to break the cycle of gender-based violence and create that bright future we all dream of. My book is a call to action encouraging everyone to be part of the solution.