ABUJA, Nigeria - The Council of Traditional/Cultural Leaders of Africa (COTLA) has said it will redouble its efforts to ensure violence against women, all forms of gender discrimination and harmful traditional practices come to an end in Nigeria.

This was part of the resolutions made at a meeting between the leadership of COTLA and UN Women in Nigeria on Wednesday, March 17 2021 in Abuja, supported by the joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

In his opening remarks, the Convener General of COTLA, HRM (Arc.) King Adedapo Aderemi said he appreciated the efforts of UN Women and reiterated his solidarity and commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in Nigeria.

He pointed out that COVID-19 has exacerbated poverty in society, particularly for women who have had to face numerous challenges trying to care for the family.

“Due to lockdown, reports show an alarming increase in the shadow pandemic violence against women and girls," he said. "Poor access to services such as counselling, police protection, long-term closure of schools due to COVID-19 and bandits have exposed girls to gender-based violence (GBV), child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and unintended pregnancy as well as health challenges such as HIV.

“Child labour, sexual exploitation and abuse have increased. As COTLA we are not bystanders, we are active advocates for laws and policies, ending early and child marriage in our communities, and creating safe spaces."

Photo: UN Women Nigeria

Earlier in her welcome address, the UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms. Comfort Lamptey, highlighted the important role of traditional leaders in ending violence against women, gender equality and women's empowerment.

Also speaking, the Deputy Convener-General of COTLA, HRH Dr Haliru Yahaya Ndanusa, said that as community leaders, COTLA will galvanize efforts within its base to end violence against women.

In a goodwill message, the Obong of Calabar, Royal Eminence Chief (Barr.) Edem Duke through his representative said the monarch is relentlessly working towards gender equality and women's empowerment. He said he has repealed and amended harmful traditional beliefs and practices and upheld widowhood rights, among other reforms. He said he is working with Spotlight Initiative through the International Federation of Women Lawyers Nigeria (FIDA) to ensure access to justice and essential services for women who have been victimized.

Other speakers, including the Emir of Bwari, Alhaji Awwal Musa Ijokoro (II); HRH Eze Martin Nwali of Ameka Ezza South, Ebonyi State; HRH Eze Ngozi of Abia State; Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Mustafa Ubandoma, District Head of Girie in Adamawa and Alh Kabiru Chigari Alhassan, Sarkin Sudan, Sultanate Council of Sokoto, committed to ending GBV  while also testifying to the work the Spotlight Initiative has done in mobilizing and sensitizing local communities towards eradicating gender-based violence and discrimination.

The Spotlight Initiative, through UN Women and COTLA, agreed to implement a strategic plan to accelerate the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.

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