Taking Ondo State violence against persons law to the grassroots
The sensitisation meetings were held across the three senatorial districts in Ondo state and were targeted at grassroots audiences. Over 350 stakeholders, drawn from different strategic groups, were reached with the content in the Yoruba language and pidgin English. At this event, leaders, and members of association of public transport workers/owners, security and local government officials, traditional rulers, and market women, among other critical stakeholders present, made verbal and public commitment to put in place actions that will help gender-based violence (GBV) victims to speak up, without fear of intimidation.
At community level, traditional leaders particularly the Obas (traditional leaders in Yoruba land ruling various Kingdoms, towns and even villages are called obas) and their chiefs have considerable influence on the people living in their communities. The buy-in and the commitments by these grassroot leaders to step down the content of the Ondo State VAPP law will, therefore, help deepen awareness creation on what constitutes GBV. Consequently, initiating the deterrent factor, and fostering attitudinal change. Most of the participants were surprised that daily occurrences, which were often ignored, such as stalking and using bodily defects to insult people, constitute GBV and are punishable by law. Some participants also noted that they heard about the act, which was passed and signed into law in July 2021, for the first time at the sensitisation meetings. This feedback is indeed a call for awareness creation about the VAPP law and related laws to be increased at every part of the state to ensure no citizen is left in the dark.
One of the participants said:
" I am hearing about the VAPP Law for the very first time, several crimes on GBV has happened in my community that went unpunished, this law will help break the culture of silence and more women will speak up."
The richly packed meeting was rounded-up with community members reinstating commitment to work with government to stem the tide of GBV cases in the state. To enable quick intervention, OSAA-GBV ensured that its toll-free phone lines were provided to the community members to report cases of violation. The Agency called for the formation of community-based committees that could follow through to ensure GBV cases are reduced in respective communities.
The primary reason for the establishment of the Ondo State Agency Against Gender-Based Violence (OSAA-GBV) was to tackle the increasing level of violence against persons in all its forms, including GBV. As such, the Ondo State VAPP law, which was passed in July 2021, is a vital instrument for the agency to fulfil this objective. While the VAPP law has numerous provisions to protect all persons, regardless of gender, the greatest beneficiaries are women and children as they are often the targets of, not just GBV but, all forms of violence, including political violence.