Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you so much for honouring our invitation.
Today is the International day for the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women.
We are here to share and reinforce our commitment to ending VAW and ‘leaving no one behind.’
The Women’s Crisis Centre started out in Owerri, Imo State in 2002 as a community based organisation empowering the community to end VAW as part of a MacArthur Fund for Leadership Development Grant. Since then it has grown and has provided legal and counselling services and training to more than 5000 men and women around the world.
In 2002 we set up the first shelter for victims and trained community advocates to mediate domestic conflicts in Owerri, Imo State. In 2010 we ran a series of lectures and a free family law clinic in Abuja that reached hundreds. Since 2011 we have counselled and advised thousands online. In 2012 we set up a women’s legal defence trust fund and contributed to Wasila Umar’s legal defence in 2013 (Wasila Umar was a child bride in Kano accused of murdering her husband and 3 others. She was acquitted.) Earlier this year we successfully evacuated two foreign children caught up in an abusive situation in Nigeria.
Our attention was increasingly drawn to the security situation nation wide and the impact it is likely to have on women and we called on our sisters across the nation to start a movement and speak out as one under the hashtag #NGWomen4Peace.
As our November 25 event drew nearer it became clear that we needed to use the coming 16 Days of Activism to amplify our message for peace, dialogue and continue to build a critical mass of women’s voices for the movement.
What better way to remind ourselves just how important it is not only to include women’s voices in peace and conflict resolution architecture but also for women as a group to continue to speak up for peaceful resolution of national conflict than to hear the stories of the women currently in IDP camps. So we chose to bring you their work and their stories to be told through photography, painting and performance at our closing ceremony on December 10.
While planning this project and exhibition I was also rather forcibly reminded how important it is for us in the development sector to do more to protect and safeguard the many women from all over the world that work in our sector. Seven years ago I was summarily dismissed as country director for OxfamGB in Nigeria by my line manager who had a three months earlier sexually assaulted me. Oxfam did nothing to protect and restore me then and nothing to punish my assaulter who stills enjoys their patronage till today.
It was a Life Changing Experience. We must ensure that the women whose compassion draws them to this work are just as protected as the women that are the beneficiaries of our work. And we must ensure that sexual predators are made unwelcome among us.
Tonight is not only the marking of the International Day for the Elimination for Violence Against Women. It is also an introduction to and fund raising for WCC’s programs for the next year.
In 2018 WCC intends to
- Collaborate with Alliances for Africa to train an additional 100 community peace advocates across 26 communities in Imo State and scale up nationally
- Collaborate with AWWAS (A Woman With a Story) and Abuja Literary Society to train and empower an additional 100 young women from the IDP camps in photography, arts and crafts, and performance AND
- Continue to collaborate with the #NGWomen4Peace Movement to ensure that women are included in and have an impact on national and local peace building and conflict resolution efforts across the country
Our 16 days advocacy message is ‘Peace & Protection, Not Promises’
Once again, thank you for coming.
Welcome Comments from Lesley Agams, founder of Women’s Crisis Centre at the opening ceremony of “Women Finding Peace in a Conflicted World” on 25 November 2017 with an Exhibition of paintings, photography and performance titled ‘Looking Through Her Eyes’