A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has revealed that violence against women and girls is still common despite significant gains in education globally.
The report, “A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 years of progress”, was released on Wednesday in partnership with NGOs, Plan International and UN Women.
It was released in preparation to mark 25 years since the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to advance women’s and girl’s rights.
The Beijing Declaration was a resolution adopted by the UN at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women on September 15, 1995.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, in a statement, warned that much more needed to be done to protect the rights of Nigerian girls, particularly from violence.
“Sadly, after 25 years, the world is still a very violent place for girls and women including Nigeria, but there are things we can do to change this and we need to do them urgently.
“We need to invest in protection services and support programmes that give survivors of violence an opportunity to speak up and to heal.
“We need to work with local communities to change practices that make women and girls vulnerable to violence and abuse.
“Also, we need to speak to our children, both girls and boys, to ensure they grow up knowing that such violence is unacceptable.
“Together, we can end violence against women and girls and this is long overdue,” said Hawkins.
The representative said that girls presently, were at a startling risk of violence in every space globally, both online and in the classroom, home and community , leading to physical, psychological and social consequences.
He said the report noted that harmful practices such as child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, continued to disrupt and damage the lives and potential of millions of girls globally.
“Each year, 12 million girls are married in childhood, and four million are at risk of FGM.
“In Nigeria, about 19.9 million girls have experienced FGM; 43 per cent of girls are married before their 18th birthday, and 17 per cent before they turn 15,” he said.
Hawkins said, however, that despite the ongoing violence, some remarkable gains had been made in the 25 years since the Beijing Declaration.
According to him, globally, more girls are going to school and staying in school than ever before.
“Though in Nigeria, there is still a long way to go to ensure equality of education for girls, especially in the north-east, where 60 per cent of out-of-school girls in Nigeria are located,” he said.
He said that the report has called for action including increasing policy and programme investments to scale up promising models that accelerate progress for and with adolescent girls aligned to today’s world reality.
According to him, such investments will include skills development for the fourth industrial revolution and a generational movement to end gender-based violence, child marriage and FGM.
“The report also calls for increasing investments in the production, analysis and use of high-quality age- and sex-disaggregated data and research in areas where knowledge is limited.
“This includes gender-based violence, 21st century skills acquisition, adolescent nutrition and mental health,” Mr Hawkins said.