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Gender-based violence: Boys should be taught zero tolerance from early age, says US envoy

Gender-based violence: Boys should be taught zero tolerance from early age, says US envoy
November 26
18:11 2021

Mary Beth Leonard, US ambassador to Nigeria, says boys must be introduced to the positive ideas of zero tolerance for sexual assault at early age to curb gender-based violence.

The ambassador spoke on Friday at the launch of the ‘Safety in the Workplace Initiative’, organised by African Women on Board (AWB) in Lagos.

The initiative is a three-year project designed to facilitate system change through reshaping traditional work environments to become places that foster female growth and career development.

Speaking virtually at the event, Beth-Leonard said the value to “make something better” shouldn’t be the prerequisite of women inclusion in the workplace as “they just have the same right to exist in this world and those rooms as men”.

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She said women should feel safe at their workplaces, homes and educational institutions, adding that for this to be achieved, males must be educated on the positive mindset against sexual harassment at the early stages of their lives.

“Adding value is not the basis of women’s inclusion. We shouldn’t be required to make something better than it was as a precondition for entry. They just have the same right to exist in this world and those rooms as men,” the US ambassador said.

“And why they are in those rooms where they belong, they equally have a right to safety.

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“Women in the legal industry face obstacles such as sexual and other forms of harassment. We know from recent international bar association findings, even in courtrooms and other establishments created to defend human rights, one out of three legal professionals get abused or harassed at some point in their careers.

“We believe that every woman and student should feel safe travelling between home and workplace or between home and her educational institution. She should feel equally safe and protected when she’s alone and not going anywhere.

“In turn, men, boys, brothers and fathers need to appreciate what zero tolerance means and why a positive mindset must be introduced and nurtured early at home, schools and places of worship.”

On her part, Chinyere Okorocha, vice-president, women forum of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), emphasised the importance of early education on gender-based violence.

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“If we are going to tackle this issue, waiting till university before the education won’t work. All training, learning and unlearning have to start from that infancy stage because by the time you get to the university stage, you’re already formed. To drive this change, we have to go back to the basics,” she said.

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