Tackling violence against women and girls in Nigeria through awareness raising: Interview with Iheoma Obibi, Executive Director of Alliances for Africa.

Movement building means training and organizing partners, allies and others to creatively advocate for social changes that improve the world.

Alliances for Africa is a sustainable development, peace and human rights non-governmental organization focused on tackling exclusion and endemic poverty, working with many partners in Africa and beyond. One of its projects, supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative,* is promoting full implementation of the 2015 Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act in Nigeria and addressing harmful socio-cultural norms that foster gender inequalities and violence against women and girls.

Iheoma Obibi, Executive Director of Alliances for Africa
Iheoma Obibi, Executive Director of Alliances for Africa

We spoke to Iheoma Obibi, Executive Director of Alliances for Africa.

What is Alliances for Africa’s long-term vision of change to eliminate violence against women?

Our vision of change is to increase awareness and push for the implementation of laws and enforcement mechanisms that protect women from violence, address the root causes of gender-based violence by challenging stereotypes and cultural barriers, and promote the full range of women’s and girls’ human rights.

Our long-term goal is to contribute towards a society free of all forms of violence, where inequality ceases to exist and the rights of women are recognized as human rights.

How is the UN Trust Fund grant under the Spotlight Initiative helping you achieve your goals?

The grant has given us the resources and capacity to sustain our efforts in tackling all forms of violence against women and girls. It is supporting our prevention efforts to increase awareness about violence against women and girls through individual and community initiatives.

We have established a system for documenting cases of sexual and gender-based violence, with over 200 cases on record, which has improved referral services and access to justice.

In addition, alongside other civil society organizations, we advocate with multiple government entities such as the First Lady, Attorney General of Imo State and the House Committee on Gender for laws to protect women and girls. Our advocacy efforts allowed the comprehensive Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Bill to be reviewed and then passed by the Imo State House of Assembly. It is currently awaiting the governor’s assent.

What does movement building mean to you and how has it complemented your work?

We believe movement building means training and organizing partners, allies and others to creatively advocate for social changes that improve the world.

Alliances for Africa has helped to set up the Imo State Committee on Ending Violence against Women and Girls, a network of civil society organizations and women’s organizations, and other key stakeholders, including traditional leaders and government ministries, in combating violence against women and girls. This committee is the first of its kind in Imo State to bring together state and non-state actors to work on improving access to essential services for survivors of gender-based violence. The committee advocates for laws, policies and enforcement mechanisms that protect women from violence.

We are also involved in the committee’s quarterly meetings, where members and partners, from both governmental and non-governmental organizations, engage constructively on issues connected to sexual and gender-based violence, and galvanize efforts.

How can donors better support movement building?

Donors could invest in feminist movements as this is strategic to engaging with wider civil society networks of women and girls. Donors could also encourage the development of social movements that cut across local, national, regional and international lines to connect activists around the world and work across sectors and issues.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your work?

It had dire implications because most of our project’s activities require face-to-face engagement. Nevertheless, as we quickly adapted early on, we were able to resume activities as soon as the restrictions were lifted and have implemented over 80% of activities since then.

Learn more about Alliances for Africa’s response to protect women and girls during COVID-19 here.

This interview is part of a series to highlight the UN Trust Fund grantees under the Spotlight Initiative and how these women-led and women’s rights organizations are building and nurturing the feminist movements.

*The EU/UN Spotlight Initiative was launched in 2017 to eradicate violence against women and girls, including by funding civil society organizations through the UN Trust Fund. The Alliances for Africa project contributes to Spotlight Initiative Outcome 6 by building coalitions between states and civil society actors to establish mechanisms for the effective implementation of legislation on ending violence against women and girls.

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UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated to eradicating all forms of #VAWG. https://untf.unwomen.org/