The Sterling One Foundation recently held a screening of the movie “Chatroom” to raise awareness of the various forms of abuse against women, the cultural traits that fuel them, and the resources available to victims as part of its initiatives to reduce instances of gender-based violence in Nigeria and honor the 16 Days of Activism campaign.
The screening, which was held at Ebonylife Cinemas, also featured an interactive session that allowed viewers to share their thoughts on what could be done to reduce violence against women and girls, drawing insights from their various communities.
Annually, the United Nations marks the “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” campaign, which kicks off on November 25 and runs until December 10, to get more people to participate in ending the abuse of women in all its forms. The campaign, formally acknowledged in 1999, focuses on raising public awareness and influencing policy to combat discriminatory practices and defend women’s rights in all communities.
Speaking about the campaign’s significance, Mrs. Olapeju Ibekwe, CEO of the Sterling One Foundation, emphasized the need to raise the right level of awareness, given that many women and girls are unaware they have been abused due to the widespread acceptance of some abusive behavior.
“As an organization where gender empowerment is one of our thematic areas, we consider it crucial to help more women understand their rights better and know when they are being trampled upon. For us, awareness is the foundation of the work, as it empowers more women to take action, speak up, and break cycles of abuse,” she added.
The First Lady of Ogun State, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun, special guest of honor, spoke on the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence in our society and why we need to change our approach to dealing with the issue of violent behavior.
“In Ogun State, where I am the first lady and several other states, we have the Sexual Assault Referral Center, the Family Support Unit, and other shelters for women, but I have to say it is not enough. We need an end-to-end solution for survivors; a comprehensive program that not only addresses their physical and mental health but provides an economic safety net for as long as they require it.”
In her keynote speech, the Resident Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ulla Elisabeth Mueller, represented by Dr. Esther Somefun, Gender/Reproductive Health Analyst (UNFPA), also said we needed to come together to end gender-based violence against women and girls. “Putting an end to this violence starts with believing survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches that tackle the root causes, transforming harmful social norms, and empowering women and girls.”
Reacting to the story portrayed in the movie, most of the viewers stressed the need for more leaders, family members, and even peers to hold themselves more accountable for what happens within their communities. Highlighting the role that the culture of silence plays, they stated that victims can only speak up when they know that someone will act and justice will be served.
A panel discussion included Dr. Tinuola Akinbolagbe, CEO of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria; Barrister Adefowoke Ayo-ponle, Secretary of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria-Lagos branch; Dr. Esther Somefun, Gender and Reproductive Health Analyst, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and the First Lady of Ogun State.
The Chatroom movie, which starred several well-known actors including Odunlade Adekola, Sambasa Nzeribe, Ibrahim Suleiman, Tony Umez, Omawumi Megbele, and Nengi Adoki, depicts a typical Nigerian neighborhood where stigmatizing abuse victims prevented many cases of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, from being reported.
As part of its efforts, the Sterling One Foundation is working with partners to continue the advocacy for a reduction in gender-based violence and support for survivors via helplines where victims can break their silence, speak with counselors and get help to overcome their trauma.