BY PATRICIA TAFT AND HANNAH BLYTH
Rivers State has experienced higher levels of violence and conflict-related fatalities in the past six months than at any time since the end of the militant insurgency in 2009. This rise in violence – predominately due to the new wave of militancy, political violence, criminality and cult violence – has been well documented in the media and international spheres. What is not getting reported are the impacts this is having on women and girls. Incidents of sexual assault, targeted criminality against vulnerable groups including girls and pregnant women), and domestic abuse are all major contributors to Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in the state. May 2016 had one of the highest numbers of VAWG-related incidents reported from the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) Rivers State Observatory since its inception.
The main findings that have emerged from the trends in overall violence and fatalities, point to a pervasive environment where trust is compromised and abused. This includes both at the family and community levels as well as at the Local Government Area (LGA) and state levels. This report seeks to delve further into the impacts of militancy and collective violence on women and girls in Rivers state, and how it has contributed to an environment where trust is routinely abused and women and girls left vulnerable. It further seeks to provide recommendations for planning around prevention and response.