Nigeria continues to witness an upsurge in Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) manifested in different forms such as forced and early marriages, physical, mental or sexual assault on women and girls especially. The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), conducted by the National Population Commission (NPC) shows, at the age of 15, three out of every ten Nigerian women have experienced physical violence. This further confirms the high prevalence of SGBV in the country.
CLEEN Foundation, supported by Ford Foundation, on the 5th day of June, 2018 organised a one-day experience sharing workshop on SGBV in Abuja, Nigeria. The workshop was a platform for learning and sharing experiences on handling cases of sexual and gender based violence by representatives of selected sexual assault referral centres. The objective was to find methods of effective response to addressing the high increase of SGBV in Nigeria with specific focus on the FCT. Through CLEEN’s support to the FCT SGBV Response Team, we brought together states that have Sexual Assault and Referrals Centres (SARC) such as Enugu, Niger and Kaduna for this discussion. The forum also enabled empirical narratives from SGBV victims and particularly those that have encountered the survivors of SGBV. Also, challenges and success stories were shared by participants at the event.
Mrs. Yinka Umeh, a medical Doctor from Niger state SARC, narrated high incidents of SGBV in the state and the challenges in addressing them. For instance, there are medical reports from hospitals showing SGBV victims. Sadly, the police treatment and investigations to these cases and the victims are not optimal. This weak response to SGBV issues in the state prompted the British Council through the Justice Sector reform team and Nigeria Police Force of Niger State OC Legal to work on the SGBV related issues. SGBV issues are being increasingly addressed more professionally. The guest speaker disclosed that Niger state has recorded over 256 SGBV cases, and 30 convicted for SGBV offences. There is also an increased advocacy on SGBV issues to the state officials and the state using radio, handbills. The state also visits primary and secondary schools to educate the students and pupils.
Mr. Ayuba Ahmadu from Kaduna, narrated how the state’s Ministry of Women Affairs is playing a huge role in SGBV advocacy. The state receives reports of sexual assault every day at the ministry. On receipt of such reports, the state liaises with the security agencies and takes the victim to the Salama Centre for investigation.
Similarly, experiences from TARMA SARC Enugu through its representative Miss Agu Amaka, shared how the state has recorded over 740 cases, (70% SGBV male and female children and 30% adults). The Enugu office is equipped with required manpower, such as doctors, nurses, counselors, admin staff, centre managers and receptionist to address SGBV cases. Cases that have to do with minors are reported to the security agents for immediate arrest and investigation, Amaka revealed.
At the event, although SARCs across the country are doing a great job on SGBV, it has huge funding challenge. Also, Persons with Disabilities must be encouraged to access SARC around them when they are abused. Other identified challenge facing SARCs are lack of synergy in the areas of coordination and communication.
Key lessons from the workshop showed that Niger and Enugu states experience presented opportunities for sustained SARC work in Nigeria. However, SARCs needs to create more awareness about its existence and the work they do among Nigerians. Most fundamental is that all levels of government, federal, state, and local government ought to make funding available for SARCs to function optimally.
Grace Okpe, CLEEN Foundation