Sterling Bank Plc has said it will continue to support women and young girls who have been victims of gender-based violence at one time or another to develop the courage to break the silence in a bid to stop sexual harassment in the country.
General Manager, Corporate and Investment Banking, Mojisola Bakare, made the promise on behalf of the bank while speaking at the premiere of Chatroom, a movie, in Lagos. She explained that the movie was aimed at ‘Breaking the Silence’ about the gender-based abuse women and young girls go through in Nigerian society.
The film, produced by Olapeju Ibekwe, is a 98-minute movie that tells the inspiring story of Ebiere, a young, unassuming lady who enters a dancing reality TV show to escape the haunting experience of her past. The experiences in the house turn the table on her, causing national chaos.
Addressing the audience at the event, Mrs Ibekwe said the Chatroom project, which started a few years ago, was inspired by the true-life story of someone who is still alive.
She urged more survivors to break the silence and speak up about their situations for the benefit of others, adding: “We wanted to create a story that would give people hope; to let us know that things happen, but we don’t have to wallow in the mud, and that was the beginning of CHATROOM. The movie is available on www.afrocinema.tv and can be watched from anywhere in the world. ”
She added that a virtual chatroom has also been established on the movie website, www.chatroomthemovie.com, which will be a safe place for survivors where trained counsellors can help them. The virtual Chatroom is supported by the Nigerian Institute of Counsellors and WARIF (Women at Risk International Foundation) alongside other partners. Survivors can log in as guests or anonymously and can break their silence, which is the first step towards healing.
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Pauline Tallen, in a keynote address, noted that the sustenance of gender equality perspectives should be coordinated in the plans, projects, and programmes of the Federal Government.
The ministry’s Director of Gender Affairs, Friya Kimde Bulus, said the event could not have come at a better time, given the recent passing of famous gospel singer Mrs Osinachi Nwachukwu, whose experience exemplifies the issue of gender-based violence (GBV).
According to her, cases of GBV have been on the increase in Nigeria, with the latest incident being the death of the popular gospel singer, the late Mrs Osinachi Nwachukwu, who allegedly died due to complications during a domestic altercation with her spouse.
She observed that available statistics in Nigeria showed that one in three women and girls between ages 15 and 49 had experienced GBV, and one in every five had experienced physical violence.
“Thirty-one per cent of women between ages 15 and 49 have experienced sexual assault, while six per cent of women have experienced an assault during pregnancy. These acts against women and girls are one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world today, “Tallen said.
She remarked that the effects most women experience are depression, anxiety, and physical and emotional distress, which are psychologically damaging and can increase the risk of developing mental illness.
“GBV is not only a violation of women’s and girls’ rights, but the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators and the fear generated by their actions has an effect on all women and girls,” she said.
The minister said the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs launched a register aimed at naming and shaming GBV perpetrators as part of measures to stem the tide. She said every partner and stakeholder should use the national GBV data collation tool to collate and submit GBV data to the ministry for effective coordination and planning.
The minister disclosed that the ministry has set up a National Chief Security Officers Emergency Response Team to assist in bringing the spotlight to the initiative, while a toll-free line was also launched for the public to report on cases of rape and domestic assault.