Project Alert is a non-governmental organisation based in Lagos and a key implementing partner for the Spotlight Initiative.
The group recently organised a two-day workshop with the theme “Capacity Building for Girls and Women CSOs/Rights Groups on Referral Services for Victims of SGBV,” where key stakeholders discussed issues surrounding violence and discrimination against women and girls and how the scourge could be eradicated.
The workshop focused on capacity-building for girls and women civil society organisations and rights groups on referral services for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, executive director of Project Alert, stated that the Spotlight Initiative was a multi-year initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls globally.
She noted that the UN agencies included UN Women, United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)),and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), adding that Spotlight, as the name suggests, means focused attention.
Effah-Chukwuma noted that the objectives of the Spotlight Initiative were to eliminate violence against women and children, introduce the Spotlight Initiative component on building the capacity of civil society organisations and rights groups to respond to and give referrals to gender-based violence victims and to sensitise stakeholders on the role of state and non-state actors in eliminating gender-based violence.
“Spotlight initiative supports concrete measures to end violence in our communities, states and nation. The initiative gives prominence to prevention, protection, and provision of services to ensure women’s empowerment,” she said.”
She explained that the Spotlight Initiative Project had six intervention pillars that mutually reinforced themselves. These, she said, were laws and policies; institutions, strengthening national government and regional institutions; prevention, promoting social norms and attitudes that help prevent violence against women and girls; services, provision of high-quality essential services for survivors, data; improving the quality and accuracy of data on violence against women and girls; and women’s movements that basically promote strong and empowered civil society and women’s movements.
She said: “The initiative will address legislative and policy gaps, strengthen institutions, promote gender-equitable attitudes, and provide quality services for survivors and reparations for victims of violence and their families.”
Effah-Chukwuma revealed that the project activities include mapping of service providers and community groups, advocacy visits to key stakeholders in some states to intimate them about the project, development of/production of information, education and communication (IEC) materials on sexual and gender-based violence, sexual gender-based violence to be shared to government agencies, civil society organisations and communities.
Speaking at the event, Mrs. Titilayo Vivour-Adeniyi, coordinator of the Lagos State Domestic Violence Response Team (DSVRT) said in eliminating domestic violence, driving synergy across multiple agencies is difficult and landing institutional reforms takes time
She stated that the ability to see cases through mainly impacted by lack of trust in government, agency mediation, police, judicial system makes it hard for victims of domestic violence to get justice.
Managing partner, Partnership for Justice and founder of the Mirabel Centre, Lagos, Itoro Eze-Anaba, said child abuse was a form of abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. It could involve physical and non physical contact between a perpetrator and a child, she added.
She said there was high prevalence of violence against children in Nigeria. Approximately six out of 10 children experience some form of violence. One in four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence before the age of 18, majority before the age of 13.
Eze-Anaba stated that perpetrators are known to the family and 93 per cent of the victims under 18 know their abuser.
She noted that perpetrators might not necessarily be adults as they may be older siblings, children’s playmates, family members, teachers, care givers or parents of another child.
According to her, some of the challenges that make eradicating child sexual abuse difficult include threats to survivors and loved ones, impunity, blackmail, stigmatisation, likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
“Challenges faced by survivors include police, hospitals, legal system, social welfare, media and civil society organisations.”
She said Mirabel Centre was willing and committed to helping survivors of sexual abuse pursue their cases so that perpetrators are brought to book to serve as deterrent to others with similar intentions of violating women and girls.
Eze-Anaba concluded by saying that rape was not a women’s issue but a social and human matter, adding that silence was a position against the survivor. She advised people to believe victims, speak out and break the silence against child sexual abuse.
Vincent Dania of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, who spoke about male involvement in eliminating violence against women, said, in 2018, the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, through the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), handled 930 cases of violence against women, most of the time perpetrated by men.
According to Dania, the first step in involving men and boys for the elimination of violence against women and girls is to put the problem in the correct perspective and move away from the notion that violence against women and girls was a woman’s problem.
He urged men not to be quiet or neutral when a woman or girl is being violated, and enjoined them to talk to family, friends, community members, co-workers and young people around them about treating women with respect. He stated that violence against women and girls must be seen as humanity’s problem, an epidemic men and women must come together to address before it makes life unbearable for all.
Josephine Effah-Chukwuma said the outcome expected of the project was for women and girls who experienced violence and harmful practices to use available, accessible, acceptable, and quality essential services, including long-term recovery services from violence.