By Emma Njoku
The United Kingdom (UK) government has organised four days training workshops for all 33 Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) and their main stakeholders in Nigeria. The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, explained that the workshops, which held between February 28 and March 4, 2022, were developed to offer critical support to SARCs who provide vital assistance and forensic and medical services to children, young people, women, and men who have been sexually abused, assaulted or raped. She added that SARCs also support police and prosecution responses to crimes of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation.
A total of 33 SARC managers and stakeholders at both state and federal level participated in the workshops. This included officials from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Ministry of Health, the Nigerian Police Force, as well as staff from hospitals. NGOs, including Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), International Federation of Women Lawyers, Nigeria (FIDA), Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, and UN Women also joined the workshops.
The workshops were delivered by visiting field experts, Alison Eaton, a senior retired UK Police Officer and International Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) expert, and Dr Isabelle Kerr, former Centre Manager of Glasgow & Clyde Rape Crisis in Scotland.
During the workshops, Alison Eaton and Dr Isabelle Kerr shared outcomes from findings from their recently completed SARCs baseline assessments, coordinated by Consular Section to map SARC services across Nigeria with the aim of improving practice, increasing resources and ensuring improved access to SARCs for survivors across the country.
“The level of commitment and passion shown by managers and staff within SARCs is enormous and shows how the grit and determination of those who believe in survivor justice and wellbeing can achieve so much,” Dr Isabelle Kerr remarked at the end of the workshop.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, emphasising the importance of the workshop said: “It is incredibly encouraging to see how much work is being done to provide accessible services to survivors of rape and Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Nigeria.
“Preventing sexual violence is a really important issue for me and for the UK government. The UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has put this at the absolute top of her priorities. And I am mandated to really engage and lean in on this to support efforts to ensure that all women are given a genuine chance to realise their potential and gain the support they need to do so.”