The Gombe Government on Tuesday said it has introduced an ammendment bill to provide stringent penalties for those convicted of raping minors in the state.

Prof. Ibrahim Njodi, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), stated this at the inauguration of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Stakeholders Advocacy meeting and capacity building workshop in Gombe.

The exercise is designed to build the capacity of the stakeholders to fast track implementation of the UNESCO’s empowerment project for women and girls in marginalised communities.

The programme supported by the Government of Japan, focuses at improving the wellbeing of women through education and advocacy.

Ndoji, represented by Dr. Adamu Ahmed, Senior Special Assistant to Gov. Inuwa Yahaya on Research and Documentation, said that prior to the present administration, the state ranked high on the issue of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in the northern region.

“However, the state maintained zero tolerance policy on SGBV since inception of the present administration.

“The state government has sponsored new law which would provide stringent penalties for convicted rapist and molesters of young children,” he said.

According to him, the six state governments in the region under the North East Governors’ Forum set up a committee to come up with a unified law for adoption in the states to address the problem holistically.

While describing the intervention as timely, Ndoji commended the Japan Government and UNESCO for the gesture.

In her remarks, Mrs Aneneh Magdalene, Team Lead of UNESCO, said the project was being implementing in Bauchi, Delta and Gombe States.

Magdalene said the project inaugurated in April 2021 would increase awareness on SGBV among young women in marginalised communities, build the capacity of media on balance SGBV reportage and develop COVID-19 preventive messages as well as rights of women.

“Part of the project objective is to provide second chance education opportunities, incoprating training on COVID-19 preventive measures to women and girls particularly adolescents at risk of dropping out of school and young women who are facing intersecting marginalisation in the participating states,” she said.

Also speaking, Dr. Isiyaku Mohammed, Special Adviser to the state governor on Budget Planning and Development Partner Coordination, said the project would impact positively on the lives of  adolescent girls and women in the state.

Mohammed described the high level of teenage pregnancy, early marriage and low contraception in the state as “unacceptable.”

He said the state government was being supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other development partners, adding that it had achieved progress as it leveraged on the existing structures.

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According to him, there are trained psycho-social counselors in the state Ministry of Women Affairs who are managing SGBV survivors and established SGBV technical committees.

“As you go along with the implementation of the project, it is also to approach it as study to harvest as much information so that we can analyse and see where we will improve,” he said.

NAN reports that about 50 participants drawn from Community Based Organisations (CBOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and stakeholders attended the exercise.

They were expected to step down the training in their respective communities. (NAN)