Good morning, everyone. I am thrilled to be here with such an energetic group of people who are committed to working towards a society with no tolerance for rape and gender-based violence, or GBV. During these 16 days the United States joins the world in redoubling its commitment to speak up about violence against women and girls. We stand strong on our goal to improve the protection of women and girls worldwide.
I want to thank Dr. Kemi Dasilva-Ibru and her team from the Women at Risk International Foundation for putting together this important event. Dr. Kemi and her team are doing fantastic work at their center in Yaba – providing holistic care to survivors of GBV, rape, and trafficking free of charge and providing preventative measures in education and community service to reduce GBV.
I would like to acknowledge officials of the Lagos State Government and staff of the British Deputy High Commission Lagos, for supporting the march today. I also want to celebrate our U.S. government exchange program alumni, particularly members of the Young African Leaders Initiative Network who came out today! Their participation in today’s march is so important. Young people have a critical role to play in ending GBV. And a shout-out to Consul General Will Stevens and our team of U.S. Consulate employees and their families who are ready to march for this important cause!
Gender-based violence is a human rights abuse, a form of discrimination, and a manifestation of unequal power based on gender. It occurs in every country and at every level of society, with direct and indirect costs to individuals, families, communities, economies, global public health, development, and human, national, and regional security.
For far too long, impunity, silence, and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate in Nigeria, as one in every four women and girls experience sexual assault before the age of 18. As we commemorate these 16 days of activism to end such abuses, we must once again remind ourselves, that no woman or girl child should live in fear of violence, and every girl should grow up knowing she is safe, so that she can have the best start in life.
Preventing and responding to all forms of GBV is a cornerstone of the U.S. government’s commitment to promoting democracy, advancing human rights, and furthering gender equality. The U.S. government is taking decisive action to prevent and respond to gender-based violence through programming, policy, and diplomatic efforts.
In December 2022, the United States released an action-oriented update to the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. This strategy drives a comprehensive, unified, interagency response to gender-based violence abroad through U.S. foreign policy and assistance.
In Nigeria, we have partnered with non-governmental organizations and the Nigerian government to raise awareness of gender-based violence, human rights violations, and to ensure that all girls receive an education.
The U.S. Mission to Nigeria has invested tens of millions of dollars in support of gender equality, economic empowerment of women, women’s health, and peace and security among other programming. Through U.S. Mission Nigeria, more than 50,000 girls and young women have been trained on how to escape dangerous GBV-related situations through USAID’s flagship “No Means No” program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), via PEPFAR, provides support to integrate HIV treatment services for GBV victims. Close to 20,000 GBV survivors have participated in treatment programs to include viral suppression and reduction of HIV acquisition.
And so, I have come to Lagos in part this weekend to raise awareness of the scourge of GBV and to hail partners like WARIF who are working to eliminate it. The U.S. government, and U.S. Mission Nigeria in particular, will continue to support you in these critical efforts. It is an honor to march with our partners, it is an honor to lead the U.S. Mission family as well, as we walk towards ending gender-based violence in Nigeria and around the world. Thank you!