One in four boys are survivors of rape and sexual violence; nearly 100 per cent of boys are involved in alcohol and substance abuse; one in five boys will walk away rather than intervene when they see a girl being harassed; and 81 per cent of teenage boys believe that a rape survivor is responsible for the abuse because of her mode of dressing.These were some of the shocking outcome of a recent survey conducted by the Women At Risk International Foundation (WARIF) amongst secondary school boys between the ages of 13 and 18.
Speaking at a press conference on the World Refugee Day to make the survey report public, founder of WARIF, Dr. Kemi Dasilva-Ibru, said a new initiative, Boys Conversation Café, has been launched to address to the disturbing discoveries.
The Boys Conversation Café was launched in April 2018 and had been designed to target schoolboys between the ages of 12 and 18 in secondary schools across Lagos. The objective is to train the boys to be protectors rather than perpetrators, by changing their attitude and existing mindset about rape and sexual abuse, while equipping them with the knowledge and tools needed to prevent sexual violence in their communities.
Already, early successes have been recorded. At the first session with a group of 40 boys from Surulere Senior Secondary School, based on an anonymous survey filled by the attendees, 66 per cent committed to stop using drugs, while 47 per cent agreed to stop alcohol consumption. A hundred per cent promised to stop frequenting strip clubs and 78 per cent felt that their self-esteem was greatly improved by the programme.
Vice Principal of the school, Mrs. Ajibodu, stated that the boys were mandated to train other boys in their classrooms and beyond. One of the students, Oluwaseun, said they have started educating other boys on the dangers of sexually assaulting girls, not just physically, but also emotionally and psychologically.
Dasilva-Ibru stated that they are partnering with the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSRVT) to reach all secondary schools in the six school districts of the state before the end of the year. She hopes that with appropriate funding, they would be able to take it out of Lagos and extend the campaign across Nigeria. She also plans to include this training in the curriculum of schools so that with the right education, the incidence of gender-based violence among children and teenagers would be greatly reduced.
Mrs. Lola Vivour Adeniyi, Coordinator of DSVRT, said: "We believe strongly in positive masculinity. We found that unconsciously, we put a lot of awareness on girls and how we can protect them, teaching them how to be safe, and how they can protect themselves from sexual abuse, but we usually leave the boys behind. So, we are excited about the WARIF Boys' Conversation Café, and we will be partnering with WARIF to cascade these café conversations across the state."