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“My activism against Sexual and Gender Based Violence will continue well beyond my stay in office as Wife of the Governor of Benue State and I will continue to support advocacies and efforts to eliminate the scourge in the years ahead”.

Solemn and reassuring words of Benue State’s First Lady and Founder, Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF), Dr. Eunice Ortom at the dissemination meeting and closing ceremony of this year’s 16-Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence which she noted would be her last in office as Wife of the Governor of the State.

Dr. Ortom who pointed out that women and girls suffer SGBV much more than their male counterparts, lamented that this sad fact is made much worse during crisis situation and called on all to unite to fight the scourge in line with this year’s global theme for the 16-Days of Activism.

The First Lady recounted the gains made by the State GBV Policy Advocacy and Implementation Committee which included increased awareness about the GBV menace, provision of shelter, clinical and legal services for survivors and the push for the proposed bill to establish a Widowhood Commission to cater for women bereaved of their spouses and to end harmful widowhood practices, as well as another bill for women inclusion in traditional leadership championed by her Foundation in conjunction with Office of the State First Lady.

She disclosed the establishment of a Sexual Assault Referral Centre at the Benue State University, Makurdi funded by a grant from Ford Foundation which was earned as a result of the milestones achieved in the fight against SGBV in the State since 2015.

The ESLF Founder appealed for more support for additional shelters for SGBV survivors, strengthened capacity of SGBV case managers as well as a stronger and more robust response system against SGBV in the State.

Dr. Ortom commended development partners, men and male youths as well as all stakeholders for their sustained support to flush out the scourge and charged them not to stigmatize survivors but encourage them to speak up, support prosecution of offenders and ensure that the end of #16-Days of activism does not bring an end to their collective effort to fight GBV.

In her response, representative of development partners in the State, Mrs. Beatrice Shomkegh of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for Refugees (UNHCR) hailed the First Lady’s “dogged and determined stance in promoting the rights of women and girls” noting that her consistency in fighting the scourge was unprecedented which, records show, had reduced #SGBV prevalence in the State and commended her humanitarian interventions through ESLF.

In their separate remarks various stakeholders including the Benue State Coordinator, National Human Rights Commission, Barr. @Joshua Tyoyer, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Tabitha Igirgi, Head of the Benue State University Centre for Gender Studies, Prof. @Member George-Genyi and Commissioner for Agriculture, Barr. Terna-kester Kyenge who spoke for the State Executive Council, all commended the impact Dr. Ortom has made in curbing GBV and promised to sustain the fight.

Representative of UN Women He-for-She Network in Benue State, Barr. Joseph Gbagyor, State Chairperson of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, Bemshima Anshe, representatives of the wives of the Tor Tiv and Och’Idoma as well as representatives of traditional leaders in the State among others praised the effort of the State First Lady which galvanized them into action to advocate against SGBV.

Other high points of the event was a panel discussion anchored by Chairperson of the State GBV team, Prof. Magdalyn Dura, a presentation of the scorecard by the GBV team and a sensitisation rally which commenced at the High Level Roundabout through the State Police Headquarters and terminated at the New Banquet Hall of Benue People’s House.

16-Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence ends on December 10th celebrated globally as Human Rights Day to mark the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the theme for this year is “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All”.

Emmanuel Enenche Umele


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