Empowering rural women and communities to end gender-based violence in Nigeria
"There is a change in my home today; there is no more domestic violence.” – Josephine, a woman survivor of gender-based violence.
Almost one in three women aged 15-49 has experienced physical violence in Nigeria. Rural women and girls in particular face a heightened risk of gender-based violence due to traditional, harmful attitudes and norms that persist in many of their communities, and they often face difficulties in accessing referral services as usually these are only available in cities.
With support from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, the women-led organization Women United for Economic Empowerment (WUEE) is running a three-year project in Nigeria to prevent and address gender-based violence, particularly in rural areas. The project aims to empower women and girls at risk of being left behind, by providing them with justice, economic opportunities and adequate services.
Engaging all community members
WUEE is using a bottom-up approach to engage all community members, including key stakeholders such as youth and women leaders, police, men and boys, and faith-based groups.
In the six project communities, WUEE has established eight Community Action Committees, members include religious leaders, youth leaders and community health workers, who are leading group discussions and community dialogues on existing legislation, policies and cultural barriers affecting women’s rights. These committees aim to drive change in attitudes and ensure easier access to essential services in rural communities. At least 400 of the participants are now able to successfully challenge harmful social norms in their communities.
The project has also trained 30 community-based gender champions, both men and women from the target communities, to address various forms of violence against women and girls. As a result, these champions are conducting community dialogue sessions to raise awareness on gender issues. WUEE has reported that these activities have had a positive impact in both project and neighbouring communities, as the number of cases of violence against women and girls has decreased.
WUEE has collaborated with Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Justice to revise and publish a manual on sexual and gender-based violence to guide communities on prevention and response mechanisms. In addition, WUEE has conducted training for 50 police and judiciary Officers on how to respond, protect and refer victims and survivors to appropriate services as well as how to prosecute perpetrators.
Strengthening women’s independence
To economically empower women, WUEE has implemented livelihood training for women and girl survivors of violence in rural communities. By providing them with financial literacy and skills on saving and investment, the survivors can gain financial independence to leave abuse relationships.
Josephine, a project participant, shared: “There is a change in my home today. I never knew that economic empowerment and development … could help to prevent domestic violence.”
Since the start of the project and joining a VSLA, 93 women survivors of violence have reported improvements in their well-being. Additionally, they are now speaking out, reporting cases of violence and seeking justice.
The work of UN Trust Fund grantees such as WUEE is crucial to ensuring that women and girls, especially those at risk of being left behind, are empowered and supported to reclaim their right to live free from violence.
“16 facts about violence against women and girls in Nigeria – 16 Days of Activism”, Spotlight Initiative – The European Union, United Nations, UNICEF, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, November 2022.