Over 2000 Ebonyi women and girls including people living with disabilities, Saturday, embarked on a sporting activity called Freedom Run, to raise public awareness on sexual gender-based violence and sexual reproductive health rights in the state.
The freedom run activity was in line with the implementation of the joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, “To eliminate violence against women and girls in Nigeria”.
Deputy Governor of Ebonyi state, Barr Kelechi Igwe, staff of Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women Affairs, Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Spotlight Initiative Desk Officer for Ebonyi State, African Centre for Youth and Sports Development, UNESCO team, media personnel, Family Succour foundation, all participated in the freedom run.
Also, the UNESCO Spotlight Initiative team, led by the Head of the Social and Human Science Sector, Dr. Nneka Okafor, participated in the Freedom Run Activity which started from the Abakaliki Township stadium to the Christian Ecumenical Center at spare-in-deo.
Dr. Dimitri SANGA, director of the UNESCO regional office for the west -Sahel Africa, OIC UNESCO regional office, Abuja, in his address, noted that the freedom run was a platform to raise awareness on gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls in the country.
SANGA, represented by Dr. Nneka Okafor, UNESCO Abuja, Head of Social and Human Science Sector, hinted that from UN statistics, globally, 750 million, women and girls alive today were married before 18 years, while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation which is dangerous to the society.
He said sports are a potential intervention against sexual gender-based violence and other relevant harms.
“Using sports for advocacy becomes paramount and at the heart of the campaign to sustain the gains of the program to eliminate violence against women and girls”, he stated.
He commended UNESCO and the African Center for Youth Sports and Development for designing the sporting game in the EU- UN spotlight initiative project.
According to UNESCO, the main purposes for the Freedom Run in Ebonyi include, to raise public awareness on SGBV and SRHR through a large-scale sports activity, especially for women and girls; to promote the values of sports in fighting against SGBV through specially designed milestone settings in the activity; to increase knowledge of existing rights of women and girls among all stakeholders including the targeted population of men and boys like professional male groups, football clubs, National Union of Road Workers, Okada Riders Association and, increase linkages to violence prevention, mitigation platforms/services, and support system for women undergoing an abusive relationship.
Agbo Stella, one of the people living with disability, students, Nnachi Nnena from Afikpo South local government area and Nazareth Peace from River State, called on young girls to run away from female genital mutilation as it is harmful to health.
They advocated for more awareness, freedom to run against every form of violence against women and girls to be taken to the grassroots to enable school children to participate.