On the 25 November, Zonta International Club of Lagos 1 organised an Interactive Forum: SAY NO! TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: CALL TO ACTION in collaboration with Women Arise for Change Initiative at the Freedom Park, in the heart of Lagos. This event was a befitting climax to the Club’s ZONTA Says NO to Violence Against Women Awareness Campaign during which over 4,500 bookmarks specially designed to enhance the visibility of Zonta Club of Lagos 1 have been distributed since February 2013.
Before the event, the Interactive Forum was widely publicized through press releases in the social media, during a popular Nigeria Info FM radio morning show on Zonta International’s 94th Birthday, and flyers were sent by email and distributed at various events held in Lagos before 25th November to commemorate The International Day for The Elimination of Violence Against Women …. In order to create more awareness, a ZONTA Says NO banner was hung in a strategic position at Freedom Park, which has recently become a popular venue for social, cultural and creative art events, a few days before the interactive forum and flyers were left in cafes and restaurants within the complex so that the numerous visitors attending events being held there during that weekend would know that Zonta takes the elimination of violence against women seriously.
As a result, despite the usual heavy Monday morning traffic in Lagos, a broad spectrum of participants including members of the media, diplomatic corps, public sectors, academia, creative industries, civil society organisations and development partners, attended the event. Prof. Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate and Chairman of the Board of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman National Human Rights Commission, Nigeria; Mrs. Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Founder Kudirat Initiative for Democracy KIND; Mr. Christian Widmann, Head Programmes, GIZ ; Ms. Bene Uche, Public Affairs Section, US Consulate;and high level delegations from the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA) and Office of the Public Defender (OPD) also graced the occasion.
At the beginning of her welcome address the President of Zonta Club of Lagos 1 Z Shade Bembatoum-Young read a poem entitled ‘No More Tears’ in order to highlight the importance of Edutainment and more specifically Poetry in breaking the silence and emphasizing the fact that victims of gender based violence are ordinary people we each come across in our daily lives, who need our understanding and support because they often suffer the additional pain of stigmatization.
Other Poems by Word-Up Poets and a 5 minute Video Clip from the movie ‘MISFIT’, directed by the award winning Daniel Emeke Oriahi and starring Ijeoma Agu, were part of the Edutainment segments of the programme . She concluded by declaring that the elimination of violence against women was every body’s business. Z. Segilola Goubadia immediate Past President of the Club, and currently a member of the International Advocacy Committee, spoke eloquently on the role of Zonta International in eliminating violence against women worldwide with special reference to ZISVAW and the Zonta Says No campaign .The key note presentation with slides tagged ‘THE BITTER TRUTH ABOUT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN’ was made by Dr. Joe Odumakin, President Women Arise for Change Initiative, and one of the nine recipients of the 2013 International Women of Courage Award. The passionate presentation and somewhat gruesome visual images held the audience spell bound as Dr Odumakin reeled out alarming statistics on issues such as Rape, Domestic Violence Trafficking of Women and Children, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Brides. Dr. Odumakin called upon participants to work together to ensure that the necessary laws were passed and enforced to protect the rights of Women and Girls. Her presentation ended on a positive note with her leading the audience in singing ‘We Shall Overcome’.
An interactive session highlighting causes, effects and prevention of violence against women and girls in Nigeria; socio-economic and cultural factors; collaboration between NGOs and building sustainable creative industries/media/development partner/civil society partnerships, as well as crucial information about Lagos State Laws and Services from WAPA and OPD, followed by a Question and Answers/ Solutions and Strategies Segment, were skillfully moderated by a renowned female Professor of Law, Prof. Ayo Atsenuwa. Panelists included, Director ACTS Generation, Mrs. Leila St. Mathew-Daniel; Director Women Law and Development, Dr Keziah Awosika; Member Governing Council, Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi; Director Office of the Public Defender, Mrs. Omotola Rotimi; Assistant Director, Nigerian Television Authority, Mrs, Antoinette Falohun; Executive Secretary Girl Guides Association Nigeria, Mrs. Eno James; Mrs. Damilola Obinna of the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA; CEO Nesta Sukie Ltd, Isioma Fidel – Ewerem; Stage and Screen Actor, Ijeoma Agu, Star of ‘MISFIT’a film about violence inflicted on a women kidnapped by a gang; Mrs. Omotola Rotimi, Director, Office of The Public Defender and Mrs K.B Hopo of the Ministry of Women Affairs.
By the time the Interactive Forum drew end at about 4pm, vital information on existing resources participants could draw on in order to strengthen the campaign, areas of collaboration, and practical strategies had been identified for short and medium term implementation. Participants received a Handbook on the Law to Provide Protection Against Domestic Violence and other useful material as well ZONTA Says NO bookmarks.The awarded winning Rap Artiste, Motivational Speaker and Cultural Ambassador, Z Yetunde Alabi a.k.a Sasha, a member of Zonta Club of Lagos 1, and former member, International School Ibadan Z Club, not only skillfully steered us through the programme as Master of Ceremonies, but also sent out tweets at regular intervals during the course of the event. During the rest of the 16days she continued to use twitter and other social media to spread Zonta’s messages as her contribution towards the campaign to end violence against women.
Extensive electronic and print media coverage was provided by the following organisations : Channels TV; Nigerian Television Authority (NTA); Silver Bird TV; Super Screen; Inspiration 92.3 FM; Radio Continental 102.3 FM; Punch Newspaper; This Day; The Nation; Daily Champion and Daily Newswatch.
In-depth newspaper articles, which capture the meaningful contributions made by various speakers during the event, were published by The Nation, page 33 and on page 15 of Thisday News papers on the 3rd of December. Other newspapers have informed us they would soon publish their stories on the event.
On Days 2 and 3 of the 16 Days of Activism, the President of Lagos Club 1, spoke briefly at the events she was invited to and distributed ZONTA Says NO Bookmarks. The event on day 2 in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was organized by the West African Women’s Association, WAWA, some of whose members had participated in our interactive forum the day before, and was also attended by Z. Kolapo Odedina, Past District 18 Governor and Z. Opral Benson, Past Area 3 Director. Although the event on Day 3 was the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Network of Non Governmental Organisations, NNGO, when asked to speak, Z. Shade Bembatoum- Young seized the opportunity to remind participants of the need to join the Campaign to End Violence Against Women and Girls.
On Day 11, as a result of the numerous reports in the print and electronic media Africa International Television, AIT, came to the office of the President of Zonta International Club of Lagos 1, to do a recording for a discussion programme on Rape and other violence against women issues. The ‘Zonta Says No’ poster now hangs in her office and was part of the backdrop for the recording.
Last but not least, one of our members joined the Zonta International #16days advocacy on twitter and also amplified the International Conversation locally around the VAW Issues and Child Marriage. For the whole #16days she retweeted all ‘Zonta Says No’ tweets to local audiences.