UNODC official, Hadiza Abba urges solidarity for gender equality

Adeze Ojukwu

The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime(UNODC) in Nigeria marked the 2021 International Women’s Day (IWD), by celebrating leadership shown by women in the agency.

The organization released a series of interviews by the inspirational women from its field offices and headquarters to honour their efforts towards advancing gender equality commitments.

In this interview, Hadiza Abba, National Programme Officer on Human Rights and Gender in Country Office Nigeria (CONIG) discussed the significance of the international date.

Abba, a lawyer is a Gender Strategy Focal Point and through her work aims to change the organisational culture to achieve gender equality.

Find below excerpts of the interview featuring her motivations,  achievements and activities to commemorate the 2022 IWD.

Why did you join the campaign to promote gender equality? How does this initiative relate to your job at UNODC?

In 2017, the year I started my role as a UN Volunteer supporting the Nigeria project on Strengthening Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism, coincided with the adoption of the General Assembly (A/RES/72/194), that requested UNODC to assist Member States in mainstreaming gender perspectives into criminal justice responses to terrorism. Prior to that, although the project explicitly and systematically encouraged the participation of women officials in training activities, there was little consideration of the gender dimensions in interventions and how planned policies and actions impacted women and men differently. Additionally, even though women were increasingly targeted in training activities, there were very few women in operational roles or at the decision-making level that were able to drive change at the institutional level to make the desired impact. These gaps underscored the practical importance of mainstreaming gender in a more systematic manner and the UNOV/UNODC Strategy for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women provided the enabling basis for that.

Since then, I have supported the project’s efforts to integrate gender dimensions, not only during capacity building activities but also by organizing capacity building and train-the-trainers workshops, specifically on the gender dimensions of criminal justice responses to terrorism. This includes the development and launch of a Nigeria Training Module on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism in 2019.

How would you encourage other colleagues to lead the way and be actively involved in promoting gender equality?

By encouraging them to get acquainted with UNODC gender mainstreaming structures and tools such as the UNOV/UNODC Strategy for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Action Plan to guide their day-to-day work. In particular, the ender briefs, which have been tailored to the different mandated areas provide some great examples of how gender can be practically mainstreamed in programmatic aspects. I believe by setting the example, there is a strong likelihood that others will follow suit. It is important that all efforts towards promoting gender equality is not seen as a box-ticking exercise. Rather it should be the norm and is our collective responsibility.

How do you commemorate International Women´s Day, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The UN Women report on the pandemic highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the increasing cases of violence against women (VAW) as a result of the confinement of survivors with abusers in their homes making detection and reporting even harder, further fueling impunity for such crimes. Despite the daunting state of affairs, a proactive culture is developing in Nigeria, whereby community advocates, volunteers, police, social service providers and reporters, are working together with unprecedented coordination to implement a zero-tolerance policy to combat violence against women and girls. Global solidarity campaigns such as HeForShe and #WithHer have become crucial in engaging men and boys as important allies in the gender equality movement and to address norms and attributes that tolerate and perpetuate violence.

I marked this year’s IWD by aligning with innovative and non-traditional efforts such as these to respond to VAW amidst the global pandemic.

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