NGO demands safe space, protection for women, girls


By Ikenna Osuoha

Save Our Heritage Initiative (SOHI), an NGO, on Thursday called for the creation of safe spaces and protection for women and girls in Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camps.

SOHI’s Chief Executive Officer, Ms May Ikokwu, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, set aside annually to commemorate elimination of violence against women.

Ikokwu said that women and girls are being subjected to inhuman treatments – rape, restriction of movements, physical abuse and denial of access to food in camps.

“Women make up more than 50 per cent of the IDPs population in Nigeria. According to the UN, they are forced to survive on less than ₦780 (US $1.90) per day.

“Their livelihoods are largely reliant on goodwill donations from charitable and government organisations.

“Consequently, due to overlapping vulnerabilities related to economic security and protection, many find themselves at risk of sexual and gender-based violence in the camps,’’ she said.

Ikwoku condemned all acts of violence against women and girls and urged all the states to domesticate the `Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP)’, to checkmate violence against them.

According to her, the VAPP Act prescribes 12 years imprisonment without an option of fine for rapists.

Ikokwu said if domesticated by the states, the law can reduce the rate of violence against women and girls, especially in IDPs camps.

“Many women and girls, as a result of intimidation, harassment and lack of access to food, have been coerced into sex for food in many conflict areas and camps.

“This practice is not only inhuman but a total violence against women and girls which must be ended with collaboration of state and non-state actors.’’

Ikokwu emphasised the need for women and girls to be treated with respect and dignity as mothers and future mothers for better and safer society.

“Living in IDPs’ camps is very bad for anyone. Government must intensify efforts to end internal conflicts that make people leave the comfort of their homes to find refuge in IDP camps. (NAN)