By Kemi Olatunde
Governments at all levels have been called upon to empower health workers through advocacy visit and training in order to combat gender based violence.
Director, Centre for Gender and Women Studies, University of Jos Plangsat Dayil, made the call while delivering a lecture on ‘combating Gender Based Violence in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges’ at the National Women Leadership Development Workshop for Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) in Akure.
According to her, it is important to build the capacity of the health sector for better response to Gender Based Violence(GBV), noting that partnership with both men and women is also crucial.
She stated that GBV remains a global problem with the same root causes which include, inequitable gender norms, harmful traditional practices, male preference and religious beliefs saying, “Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic and health workers are better equipped and we are well positioned to tackle it.”
Speaking extensively, she hinted that an estimated one out of three women globally is beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime compared to their male counterpart, adding that one out of three of women have experienced physical or sexual violence in the hands of intimate partners.
According to her, “roughly 20 percent of women have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18, while just over seven percent of women and girls older than 15 have experienced non partner sexual violence (UNFPA, 2015).
While stressing that GBV is one menace which mostly affects women and girls due to unequal power distribution, she categorised GBV into categories namely, sexual violence (rape), sexual assault,sexual harassment), physical violence (hitting, slapping, emotional violence (psychological abuse), economic violence(denial of resources) and harmful traditional practices(forced marriages.
She explained that GBV not only undermines the safety, dignity, overall health status and human rights of affected individuals, but also the public health, economic stability as well as national security.
She noted that gender based perspective is often missing due to women’s weak nature, provocative dressing and absence of customary laws among others.
While stressing the role of medical and health workers in improving services for survivors and also combating GBV, she said, “health care providers can help solve the problem of violence against women if they learn how to ask clients about violence, become better aware of signs that can identify victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse and help women protect themselves by developing a personal safety plan.”