Annually, the world observes the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global movement aimed at eradicating all forms of gender-based violence. This presents an ideal opportunity to take stock and comprehensively evaluate the successes and challenges of our efforts towards establishing a fair, just, and equitable society. I stand hand in hand with individuals and organisations globally, echoing a resounding call to eliminate violence against women and girls. This journey holds profound significance and aligns deeply with my passion for safeguarding women’s rights in Nigeria.
Today, I want to especially recognise and appreciate all women with hearts of gold, sacrificing their time, money and knowledge to fight injustice, domestic violence, and child abuse and mitigate the sufferings and agonising circumstances women and girls are subjected to. Your commitment and passion for a good cause is deeply appreciated. This is to say a huge thank you to the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) Nigeria, the NBA Women Forum, and other women’s groups. May we draw inspiration from our success stories and tirelessly forge legal pathways to shield women from violence and discrimination. Together, we are paving the way forward within the parameters of our legal framework, building a solid foundation for progress and growth.
The roots of the 16 Days of Activism, gaining momentum in 2008 with the launch of the UNITE by 2030 campaign by the United Nations Secretary-General, remind us of our collective power to create lasting impact. This campaign theme, “UNITE! Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls,” echoes the heartbeat of my organisation, Fountain of Life for the Needy Foundation (FOLF).
At the FOLF, we aspire to be a source of light, addressing the multifaceted needs of disadvantaged women and children in our society—financially, psychologically, legally, and physically. Our vision is not just to alleviate suffering but to inspire transformation, creating a world where every woman and girl can rise above adversity.
Yet, the battle against gender-based violence is far from won. The domestication of the Violence Against Persons Act in 34 of the 36 Nigerian states was a legislative triumph, but weak enforcement and ingrained societal norms remain formidable adversaries. Winning the legislative battle was only the beginning; the true victory lies in translating these laws into tangible change in the lives of those affected.
I call upon the Federal and State governments, law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and my fellow legal practitioners to UNITE in this noble cause. Let us leverage our collective influence and resources to bridge the gap between legislation and implementation. It is time for a united front against gender-based violence.
We must strengthen enforcement mechanisms, ensuring that perpetrators are swiftly and justly held accountable for their actions. Beyond the courtrooms, we must engage in grassroots initiatives to challenge societal norms that perpetuate violence, fostering a culture of empathy, respect, and equality.
This is not merely a legal battle; it is a societal transformation that requires the commitment of every individual, institution, and government. Together, let us be the architects of change, shaping a future where no woman or girl lives in fear and where justice prevails over cruelty.
Joyce Oduah FICMC
Principal Partner Joyce & Okey Oduah LP
Vice President West Africa Pan African Lawyers’ Union (PALU)
Imm. Past General Secretary Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
Fmr. Council Member International Bar Association (IBA)