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Religious leaders remain key to ending Sexual, Gender-Based Violence – NGO

Cross section of participants at the sensitisation workshop organised by Abiodun Essiet Initiative for the Girls in Abuja.

By Ruth Oketunde

The Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls (AIEG), a Non-Governmental Organisation,
says religious leaders play key roles toward ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the country.

The Executive Director of the initiative, Mrs Abiodun Essiet, said this on Thursday at a one-day “Town Hall Sensitisation
on SGBV in Holy Places” in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the event is; “The Role of Religious Institutions in Combating SGBV.”

Essiet said the sensitisation was aimed at breaking the culture of silence among survivors of SGBV and ensuring that perpetrators
were reported to the right institutions.

She added that “we are concerned about high incidences of SGBV happening in holy places that are meant to be sacred.

“A lot of people do not know that some behaviours are classified as SGBV; such acts include slapping one’s wife, abandonment,
leaving your kids or sending women away.

“So, we are doing this awareness to address the structural problems we are having in the society regarding SGBV and so many
people are getting away with things that should not be.

“Some people are scared of telling their religious leaders what happended to them or to their children so that their partners
will not be victimised, making these cases to be under-reported.

“Such attitude makes perpetrators to go back to the community and live peacefully as if nothing happened; but we are advocating
for victims to speak out and end the culture of silence.”

Eze Alphunsus, a cleric with Deeper Life Bible Church, called on religious leaders to be good role models to their followers
by living exemplery lives.

He added that religious institutions should endeavour to organise seminars periodically on issues pertaining SGBV
so as to discourage people from engaging in such acts.

On his part, Sheik Ibrahim Yusuf, the Sarkin Yakin Addini and Chairman, Inter-Faith Council, Bwari Area Council, urged
religious leaders to have change of attitude toward serving God by ensuring that they practice what they preach.

He added that religious leaders should not focus on praise singing their followers but ensure that they re-educate their
members on the negative impacts of SGBV.

A participant, Hajiya Zainab Nwogwu, who thanked the NGO for the sensitisation, called on parents to raise godly children
that would grow to become responsible men and women. (NAN)(
Edited by Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu

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