At the training for young women and girls, participants called for action using advocacy tools and instruments, while asserting that “doing nothing accomplishes nothing.” While their country has been in throes of a deadly wave of kidnappings and abduction, armed banditry and rape – among other ills— the women highlighted the need to figure out strategies for protection, counselling and trauma transformation necessary among individuals and in the communities.
Rev. Nicqi Ashwood, World Council of Churches programme executive for Just Community of Women and Men, pointed out that, in some of the key recommendations, participants said training needed to include men, as that they can also benefit and help to stem the spread of sexual and gender-based violence.
“[It had also recommended the] provision of additional resources for liturgical and theological advocacy, as well as amplification for global accompaniment and support,” said Ashwood. “Each region (state) will follow up with actions as outlined in their plans.”
The training, held from 15-17 December, was organized by the Women Wing of the Christian Council of Nigeria and the World Council of Churches (WCC). It was attended by 50 participants, including women church leaders, lay members and gender advocates.
At the training, Rev. Dr Uzoaku Juliana Williams, national president of the Women Wing of the Christian Council of Nigeria, expressed hope that the collaboration with WCC would accelerate the elimination of all forms of human rights abuses in the country.
“By the end of this two-day meeting and training activity, we commit to utilizing the various platforms within our member churches to institutionalize this movement,” she said. “We shall engage in sensitizing members on human rights issues, counselling and sheltering victims and survivors, providing information based on religious teachings, directing survivors and families to where they can seek services.”
According to Williams, the organization will also formulate policies in line with Nigeria’s Child Rights Act (2004) and Violence against Persons Prohibition Act (2015). Its leaders will also utilize their positions to help shape the discussions on human rights and influence institutional leaders in abolishing negative traditional and religious practices that violate the rights of women and girls.
Apart from regional workshop collaborations held annually with Mission 21, ACT Alliance, Lutheran World Federation, and Church of Sweden, among others, WCC is hoping to partner with member churches in delivering further national trainings. Possibilities are being explored with Ugandan member churches and with the Kenya Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.
For the Nigerian training, the initial feedback has been positive, according to Ashwood.
“Women have essential tools; some of them are non-governmental organization personnel,” she said. “The challenge will be in helping them to access resources, financial and otherwise, to take it to the grassroots.”