Rebecca Ejifoma reports that the International Visitors Leadership Programme Alumni Association recently organised sensitisation campaigns in Ejigbo and Somolu Local Government Areas of Lagos for students, parents, and guardians on achieving a rape, child molestation and domestic violence-free community.
Each day, the traditional newspapers and the social media are inaundated with tales of sexual and domestic violence. Although these vices seem to be on the increase, nothing brought it further home that the revelation by the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, that the police recorded 717 rape cases in five months (between January and May of 2020).
As alarming as the figures are, that is the reality the society lives in. Meanwhile, it's imperative to note that these figures might be more as it only accounts for those reported cases. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown exacerbated sexual violence in Nigeria. Unfortunately, incidents of rape and other sexual crimes have multiplied across the geopolitical zones as rape cases abound daily with many unreported because of stigimitisation and sometimes, intimidation.
Apart from the trauma and injuries sustained in the process, sexual violence of all kinds is a gross violation of the fundamental human and natural rights of the victims.
In fact, it was so bad that some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in the area of security, justice sector and human rights called on the federal and state governments as well as the Nigerian Police to treat the increasing cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) as a security threat.
According to an earlier report by THISDAY, they posited that incidents of sexual violence are on the increase because "they are yet to be considered as a security issue, and when it is, it does not rank high as a priority", adding that
"to really see change, we need to see shifts in how the government, police and others understand sexual violence as a security issue that impacts everyone and the society".
They further posited that reasons why people seem to tolerate or overlook sexual violence are; attitude, lack of awareness on existing laws, family attachments (to the perpetrator), fear of public opinion/shame, insecurity, social and economic dependency, stereotypes or myths, prejudice, fear of retribution, feeling of helplessness, religious and cultural beliefs amongst others.
It was in a bid to lend their voice and even action to the fight against sexual violence that the International Visitors Leadership Programme Alumni Association (IVLPAA), recently organised sensitisation campaigns in Ejigbo and Somolu Local Government Areas of Lagos for students, parents, and guardians.
On each occasion, IVLPAA President, Mrs. Adetoun Tade, called on children and teenagers across the country to speak out, and break the culture of silence caused by sexual violence among others.
Tagged "Achieving a Rape, Child Molestation and Domestic Violence-free Community", Tade stressed the need why every child must learn to "Soro soke" (speak out).
According to her, the campaign is about fighting rape and child molestation, which is becoming rampant, especially in Nigeria. "Because we do mentorship programme, we hear a lot from them. We talk to the children, their parents and their caregivers. We hope and look forward to winning the war against sexual violence. That is why we are spreading awareness and passing knowledge".
The president, who promised that their campaign would reach every LGA in the state, while encouraging the children present at the campaign to say no to sexual intimidation, further urged parents to protect their children from sexual abuse at home, schools and in the society.
In her address, the Assistant Director, Cece Yara Foundation, Mrs. Bisi Ajaiyi-Kayode, enlightened the students about knowing their private parts.
She added: "You should know your private part. Your mouth is for eating and talking, not kissing. Your eyes are your private body. Don't allow anyone show you what will destroy you; nobody has the right to show you anything that will ruin your dignity."
Ajaiyi-Kayode said it was best to report to trusted adults like parents, neighbours, uncles, and aunties. Sadly, she said, "We found out that most of these trusted adults are the ones abusing the children".
The child advocate and lawyer charged the children never to be threatened into silence, imploring them to call Cece Yara Foundation on the children free telecom line on 08008008001.
"Our lines are manned by professional child care experts. Our customer caregivers speak Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and other Nigerian languages too. We give free medical treatment, free legal services," she highlighted.
She also lamented that these children have been abused where they go to find succour, noting that it is easier to manage a broken child than a damaged adult.
She strongly suggested: "We need to amplify our voices. Let's break that vicious circle of that number of children that are depressed and take to drug substances. These children have the right to be protected and a right to normal life."
In her views, Nigeria needs more of sexual assault response centres, professional service response that will build the confidence of the populace to patronise them because often times running from one agency to the police station before they attend to them and the victim is tiring.
"So it is everybody's responsibility. It is the responsibility of adults to protect children. Often times we see parents shaming and blaming the child. No! A child is vulnerable. There is no way a child can protect himself or herself against a perpetrator," she cautioned.
When the campaign trained moved to Somolu, the Chairman of Somolu, Abdulrasheed Salawu said, "Our administration has done a lot to end this dreaded injustice against our female gender. Several enlightenment and sensitisation programmes assisting the survivors for proper justice."
While commending IVLPAA for putting up such initiative of practical knowledge on rape and sexual violence, he said such would enhance the knowledge of the community and empower them with the necessary tools to fight injustice against female without fear or silence.
While commending the organisers, Salawu, who promised that the administration would build on the IVLP foundation, acknowledged continuous sensitisation as solution to curbing sexual violence in Somolu. "We are sensitising the young and old. They should not let our children be scared of us. If not when something happens to them they won't tell us".
In his reaction, the Chairman House Committee on Finance Lagos State House of Assembly representing Somolu Constituency I, Rotimi Olowo, harped on the need for parental mentoring.
He said this would help their children appreciate peace, which would in turn be beneficial to the homes, society and the nation.
"What they are doing today will go a long way to build a very peaceful nation we all pray for, where we appreciate ourselves, differences, background, dispositions and our individual preferences. It is only when we appreciate and tolerate others that we can have a very peaceful nation," he emphasised.