From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Former director-general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, has launched a campaign to educate and enlighten young students on their sexual rights and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
The campaign exposes young students to what constitutes sexual violence and steps to ensure that whoever is involved is punished to serve as deterrent to others who might want to perpetrate such criminal acts.
Okah-Donli, who is the chairman of Roots Foundation, Nigeria, said her time as NAPTIP DG afforded her the opportunity to see and listen to stories of victims of sexual violation and other human rights abuses, particularly against minors, which most often, came from trusted friends or family members.
Speaking at the Government Science and Technical College, Garki, Area 3, Abuja, recently, one of the schools for the sensitization, Okah-Donli stressed the need to get the students early enough to understand their rights and privileges as regards sexual and reproductive life so they do not fall into the wrong hands.
She said: “The students we interacted with in the school were highly inquisitive to learn. From the questions they asked, I could see that they have basic knowledge and experience, but they needed further clarifications and right information on certain things to enable them take right decisions
“I am a very practical person. I have observed that, for people to understand what gender-based violence means, you have to take it to them, create enough awareness and enlighten them, especially the younger ones, who could easily fall prey due to wrong information.
“From the kind of questions they asked, you could see that most of them had problems that had to do with gender-based violence. Unfortunately, they have not been able to freely express themselves.
“Interacting with them, taking their questions and providing answers made me so excited and fulfilled. They now have a better understanding of what SGBV means and what to do when they find themselves in such situations. My NGO, Roots Foundation, works with NAPTIP and schools to fight SGBV.”
Principal, GSTC, Garki, Abuja, James Kuta, said the sensitization meeting was a good opportunity for the students to learn certain lessons that are useful for their sexual knowledge and development.
He said: “We will team up with the organisers to ensure that we sustain the sensitization. The issue of gender-based violence has deeply penetrated the society, and we need to do something drastic to empower younger ones with quality and right information and knowledge.
“We have counsellors in the school who are involved in day-to-day education, enlightenment and counselling of the students on sexual, career, education and other related issues that would help their development. We will team up with Roots Foundation and other like minds to strengthen our counselling platform for the benefit of the students.”
Many students who interacted with journalists were happy with the meeting, particularly the part that afforded them the opportunity to ask questions on sexual issues and rights, and get answers.