H.E. Toyin Ojora Saraki, Founder President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) on Monday 26th November, 2016 joined the Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, NO MORE campaign co-Founder Jane Randal, representatives of high commissions, businesses, academia, women’s rights organisations, and civil society at Marlborough House London Commonwealth Secretariat for a special event to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
During the event, the Secretary-General unveiled a new partnership with the NO MORE Foundation, designed to implement initiatives that will reduce the rates of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Commonwealth countries.
The new Commonwealth Initiative arrives in the wake of the Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Which earlier this month mobilised more than 1,200 commitments, including billions of dollars in pledges from governments and private sector partners towards its goals, one of which was the elimination of gender-based violence. During the summit, WBFA also committed to a programme of advocacy and actions on a global and sub-national scale to accelerate progress towards the ICPD agenda.
In launching the initiative, the Secretary General stated:
‘The essence of domestic violence is the same wherever you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, rich or poor, what your sexual orientation is, it manifests itself in the same way’
‘We in the Commonwealth make up one-third of the world, this Commonwealth family can be the pathfinders to say NO MORE to violence against women and girls. We can set an example which the rest of the world can follow…alone we are invisible, together we are invincible.’
In a floor intervention Mrs Saraki stated:
‘It is a privilege to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Commonwealth and the NO MORE campaign. I was delighted to mark today with Honourable Patricia Scotland, in 2012 we brought together a coalition dedicated to reducing domestic violence, today it was an honour to reflect on progress and be part of the future,’
‘This has been a very encouraging month for women’s rights. The current global momentum will help the Wellbeing Foundation Africa consolidate a decade of dedicated focus on improving social protection for women and girls, in Nigeria, in Africa, and globally.’
‘In 2011, the issue of lack of accurate data on the prevalence of domestic violence was first brought to my attention by Rt Hon Patricia Scotland who was at that time a member of the British Parliament,’
‘Through the work of the Global Foundation for the Elimination of Domestic Violence, we quickly discovered that 1 in 2 Nigerian women had been subjected to some sort of violence and gender discrimination. This led the Wellbeing Foundation Africa to commission a documentary in 2012 to spotlight the challenge, and light up a path forward.’
‘At that time silent endurance was very much seen as a barometer of womanhood. But this practice was a barrier to change. Thankfully our campaigns switched on the light. Reporting increased as we made commitments to UNWomen and the Peace One Day Global Truce Campaign.’
‘Since then, though our 55 midwife-counsellors, our work has evolved to encompass the capacity building of women and girls from birth to age, particularly during adolescence and pregnancy. Our midwives are interlocutors at medical facilities and schools, they create space spaces where women can learn and seek informed support. In schools they teach both boys and girls, what is considered a healthy relationship, how to spot and respond to abuse.’
‘Victim-shaming remains rife, but I have just two messages: we must acknowledge that sex with a minor is RAPE, and that any sex without consent is RAPE.’
‘We must all unite to protect our citizens from violence and join our partners today in implementing the Commonwealth’s initiative to say No More to all forms of violence towards women and girls.’
Every year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women marks the start of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence until Human Rights Day on the 10th of December. During this time WBFA will undertake a program of advocacy which will spotlight the role that midwives and health workers play to support and protect women and girls.