The number of the COVID-19 infection in Lagos State has continued to rise daily, alongside the number of cases of violence against women and girls. This was the concern expressed by Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), one of the nation’s foremost NGOs tackling the prevalence of gender-based violence in Nigeria. It said it was also concern over the number of cases of abuse against women in the rural areas. It said against this drop, it had launched the WARIF COVID 19 Response in Rural Communities Initiative to address this issue at the grassroots level.
This sensitization programme was designed in collaboration with traditional birth attendants, previously trained by WARIF as first responders on gender-based violence cases. “These health care providers, already educated on the prevalence of domestic and sexual gender-based violence within their grassroot communities and the immediate response and management of these cases, have been galvanized into small cell groups and are making house-to-touse visits in their various communities to offer assistance to women who are in lockdown with their spouses and partners. Cases of abuse in these households are being identified and recorded and are referred to the WARIF Rape Crisis Centre.
It said the first cycle of the programme was being carried out in five local government areas of Lagos state – Epe, Alimosho, Ikorodu, Kosofe and Apapa. “These LGAs were selected due to a high number of women in these communities with Alimosho the largest with a population of 5,700, 714 in number.
“Additional support and assistance is given to these traditional birth attendants by the organization, with the distribution of personal protective equipment such as face masks, hand sanitizers and gloves to protect these frontline workers and reduce the risk of spread of the virus in their respective communities.
Dr Kemi DaSilva-Ibru, founder of Women at Risk International Foundation stated that “54% of the population of Nigeria still resides in rural areas, with the shadow pandemic and increasing number of cases, women in these remote areas are isolated and locked away with their abusers with no means of communicating with the outside world and with no services available to them. This Initiative brings help to their door step, providing an opportunity for care and safety from their abusers that they would not ordinarily have.”
She added: “It is important to provide care and protection to all women at risk, including those in our rural communities. To educate women on the impact of Covid-19 and also sensitize them on safety planning protocols during this period. This initiative builds on an existing relationship already present in these communities, with the traditional birth attendants, and so it is helping to foster stronger community ties and provide another platform for women to seek help.”
She noted that WARIF operates a 24-hour confidential helpline 0809 210 0009) to assist survivors of gender-based violence and provides free immediate medical care, counselling and social welfare to all women at risk at the WARIF Rape Crisis Centre.