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The President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Ayokunle, on Thursday, tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to prioritise investment in food production to reduce hunger and fast-track economic well-being of the people, especially women and girls.
Ayokunle, who spoke at CAN’s launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence in Abuja, expressed worry over the level of hunger in the land, warning that the country might experience a season of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls, if urgent steps were not taken.
Rather than paying lip service to women emancipation, he said practical means must be explored to address their economic and social needs in safe spaces free of violence and abuse.
He said, “Economic challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak posed a serious threat to young women’s work and business activity and exposed them to increased risk of exploitation and abuse.
“We observed that higher levels of food insecurity and hunger led women and men to exchange food for sex. So, we urge the government to do more to reduce hunger in the land, which will help to fight gender based violence in Nigeria.”
He described the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence by the government and stakeholders as a welcome development, adding that; “There is a need for this campaign to be stepped down at zonal, state and local government levels across the country.
“There is also a need to scale up prevention efforts that address unequal gender power relations as a root cause of gender-based violence.”
Against that backdrop, Ayokunle urged the government, the faith leaders and the civil society to collaborate in designating safe spaces (physical and online) for women where they can report abuse without alerting the perpetrators.
CAN charged religious leaders to set up disciplinary measures against gender-based violence occurring in their circles.
“Religious leaders who are the faith actors should see themselves as major stakeholders in the campaign against gender based violence. They should use their platforms to discuss issues of gender based violence in their organisations,” he added.
Among faith leaders present at the event was the Chief Imam of Apo Juma’at Mosque Abuja, Alhaji Nura Khalid, who called for religious tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation in the fight against gender-based violence and other challenges heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Others notable clerics present include: Rev. Gideon Shagba, Apostle Nyeneime Andy, Rev. Dr. Testimony Onifade, Elder Biodun Sanyaolu, Magistrate J.K. Atoyebi, the representatives of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), amongst others.