A consultative engagement was held with key government and non-governmental stakeholders on the draft Referral Protocol on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), as well as on the draft Gender Policy on COVID-19 Response for Cross River and Ebonyi State. This consultative meeting was held on Thursday, 29th of July in Ebonyi State and on the 30th of July 2020 in Cross River State. The meeting was organized and carried out by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Nigeria, an implementing partner on the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative.
Objectives of the Consultative Meeting:
The objectives of the consultative meeting are as follows:
Participants for the Consultative Meeting were drawn from different government sectors, women’s rights movements, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), persons living with disability, and key individual advocates of women’s and girls’ rights.
Consultative Session: GBV Referral Protocol
The consultative session on the GBV Referral Protocol started with setting the stage, where the participants were taken through the background and highlights of GBV Referral Protocol to include the fact that GBV has been prevalent across Nigeria, including Ebonyi and Cross River State; however, there has been limited response in terms of necessary support services. The EU-UN joint Spotlight Initiative on ending violence against women and girls, in envisioning a society where all women and girls – particularly the most vulnerable – live a life free from violence and harmful practices, is supporting organizations like WILPF Nigeria as implementing partner to develop a draft GBV Referral Protocol aimed at supporting a robust referral process that is multisectoral, and that speaks to the reality on ground in the states. The draft GBV Referral Protocol, therefore, serves as a technical guide in ensuring that all survivors of GBV receive prompt and comprehensive response from service providers, such that meets their needs from the first point of contact. The document describes minimum actions to be taken to respond to GBV survivors, while outlining some guiding principles, procedures, and roles and responsibilities of relevant state and non-state actors, such as the Ministry of Women Affair and Social Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, and Civil Society Organizations in the response to and prevention of GBV. The ultimate goal of the draft GBV Referral Protocol document is to achieve a simple and effective referral pathway, coordination and communication, and follow–up mechanisms at the community level in states on issues of GBV for all women and girls including the most marginalized.
During the Consultative Meeting, participants exchanged ideas, comments, recommendations, and made inputs to the content and implementation process of the draft GBV Referral Protocol, all of which were corrected, tracked, and highlighted in the draft document. Upon collation and capturing of all comments, these were harmonized in the draft document and the document was further re-arranged by the Consultant, as attached herewith.
Consultative Session: Gender Policy on COVID-19 Response
In setting the stage for the Consultative Session on the Gender Policy on COVID-19 Response, an introduction was provided highlighting how the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic is not only exacerbating existing inequalities affecting women and girls, it has also exposed the lack of or ineffective response on issues affecting women and girls during different situations, while uncovering the imperativeness of gender-sensitive response that can be applied during the pandemic and any other emergency we may be faced with. The need for a Gender Policy is, therefore, hinged on the fact that during conflicts, crises, or other emergencies, women and girls are often disproportionally affected, thus necessitating gender-specific preventive and response plans, policies, programs, strategies, decisions, and actions that takes cognizance of the unique peculiarities, as well as relative and intersectional needs of women and girls.
For instance, with the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, the states government put some policies and strategies in place to curb the spread of the virus, such as closing of borders, building an isolation center, and providing palliatives to its citizens; but, if a gender-policy is not emplaced to guide the execution of these measures, there would be no escalation of peculiar issues affecting women and girls. For instance, this was the case when there was no representation of the Ministry of Women Affairs in the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that set up by the federal government, thus limiting the possibility of escalation of women and girls issues and needs in the response plans, programs, policies, and actions.
Furthermore, with effects such as loss of income and source of livelihood for women; increase in gender-based violence; lack of or limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, such as pregnant women’s access to ante-natal and post-natal care services and those who need skilled health workers for assisted deliveries; and protection and response to cases of SGBV, especially as it relates to domestic violence; there is need to ensure gender sensitivity in response actions. This will also serve as a framework for gender-sensitive response in other ongoing emergency situations or in case of any future emergency.
In reviewing the draft Gender Policy on COVID-19 response, participants exchanged ideas, comments, and recommendations on the content and implementation process of the policy; all of which have been corrected, tracked, and highlighted in the draft document. Upon collation and capturing of all inputs, these were harmonized in the draft document. The document was further re-arranged by the Consultant, as attached herewith.
COVID-19 Preventive Measures:
In adhering with measures put in place by government to flatten the curve and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, participants the consultative meeting were limited in number so as to ensure fewer people are gathered in a room; and physically distancing was complied with in the sitting arrangements. In addition, participants were given face masks and hand sanitizers, and handwashing point set up at the entrance to the meeting room.
The Consultative Meeting provided participants the opportunity to not only understand the scope and importance of the two draft documents – the GBV Referral Protocol and the Gender Policy on COVID-19 response, it also afforded participants and organizers the chance to have a robust dialogue and engagement on the draft documents, enrich the documents, collect and harmonize inputs, while achieving participants’ buy-in and commitment to the implementation of the documents when they are adopted and become operational.