Keynote Address by Chargé d’Affaires Kathleen FitzGibbon MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership Activity Launch

  • His Excellency, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  • Honorable Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development
  • Honorable Minister of Health
  • Honorable Minister of Justice
  • His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Sokoto State
  • His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State
  • Representatives of Ministries, Departments and Agencies
  • Partners, leaders in academia, professional bodies, and civil society
  • Members of the press
  • Ladies and gentlemen

Good Afternoon,

I am very pleased to be here today at the official launch of this important activity aimed at addressing the tragedy of gender-based violence or GBV.  GBV is a sad reality of life for far too many people, and its consequences are devastating and far reaching for survivors, families, and society.

GBV primarily affects women and girls, though boys and men may also become victims.  Driven by structural inequalities and unequal power relations that have rendered women subordinate to men, and exacerbated by limited access to education, employment, finances, and healthcare, GBV limits the potential for individuals, families, and communities to live to their full potential and contribute to the economic growth of the country.

The COVID-19 crisis has further exacerbated the risk of GBV.  Isolation during lockdown and restrictions have resulted in reduced access to information, psychosocial support, legal support, and disruptions of health services, including inadequate supplies of critical health commodities.

As a long-term friend and partner of Nigeria, the United States remains committed to working with federal, state, and local health officials to improve the health and wellbeing of Nigerians.  There is doubt that gender based violence poses global challenges.  Like all countries of the world, the United States also struggles to control and mitigate the incidence of GBV within its borders.

Here in Nigeria, the new MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership activity administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development will work to increase access to services for survivors of Gender Based Violence in Sokoto and Ebonyi states that provide them critical relief from domestic and other forms of gender-based abuse.

This $15 million investment will strengthen GBV response mechanisms, help communities transform discriminatory gender and social norms that continue to subordinate women and make them vulnerable, and uphold and defend women’s health and human rights.  It will increase women’s voice and agency,  and reduce their vulnerability to GBV.

Over the next five years, USAID will work with government and institutions to address primary contributors to maternal mortality and morbidity through the prevention and mitigation of the consequences of violence against women and girls, and drivers of early and forced child marriage, which according to the United Nations, has seen a sharp rise since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020.

I am proud to note that this is not the only manner in which the United States addresses GBV with Nigeria.   Through the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, we provided over one million dollars to IOM to support “strengthening the response mechanisms and accountability to sexual and gender-based violence in Northeast Nigeria.  This money will be used to increase the capacity of Nigerian law enforcement, civilian security, Ministry of Social and Women Affairs staff, and local communities on how to respond and assist survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

In addition, our Embassy is working with Nigerian alumni of the William J. Fulbright program to strengthen awareness of GBV in universities and other institutions of higher education where both students and staff report endemic levels of sexual harassment.  We all have a stake in combatting this menace.

USAID also recently launched the $10 million MOMENTUM Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics activity, which also supports communities, states, and federal institutions to prevent and respond to the drivers and root causes of obstetric fistula — namely early and forced marriages, and other forms of gender-based violence.

Both activities will involve a variety of crucial stakeholders, including religious and traditional leaders, to evolve social norms away from dangerous practices regarding women and girls.

We are confident that our assistance will engender a multi-sectoral response and create an enabling environment through effective policies and guidelines, stakeholder engagement, and community participation.

Because civil society also plays a critical role in raising awareness and instituting the accountability mechanisms necessary to effect and monitor impact of programs to counter violence,  USAID will support existing civil society organizations, local non-governmental organizations, and host country institutions to provide evidence-based solutions to support survivors of GBV.

These include counseling, legal, providing psycho-social support, and improving voluntary family planning and reproductive health services to help respond to the needs of women affected by violence.

We look forward to collaborating with the Ministries of Women Affairs, Health, and Justice in achieving these important objectives.  Nigeria has the will and leadership needed within strategic sectors of the economy to drive change on this vital issue.

For the past 60 years, USAID programs have saved lives and improved health outcomes in Nigeria and around the world.  This support is just one component of the strong and continued cooperation between our two governments.

On behalf of the United States, I commit to continuing our work with you to end gender-based violence in Nigeria.

Thank you very much.