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Dasilva-Ibru: Survivors of Sexual Abuse Should Speak up and Seek Help

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Dr. Kemi Dasilva-Ibru is the Founder, Women at Risk International Foundation. In this interview with Martins Ifijeh, she stressed on the need to re-orient teenage males on rape and sexual abuse by turning them to protectors instead of predators. She also spoke the recent grant from USAID to address the menace in Nigeria and why victims should speak up and seek help. Excerpts:

WARIF just launched the Boys’ Conversation Cafe. What has the impact being so far?

The Cafe is an initiative launched in the second quarter in 2018 designed to target cohort groups of boys in secondary schools between the ages of 13 and 16 across Lagos. The project aims to change the attitude and existing mindset of adolescent school aged boys towards rape and sexual abuse.

Baseline surveys conducted on these cohort groups confirmed that one in five boys will choose to walk away rather than intervene and assist when a girl is being sexually harassed and 81 per cent of teenage boys believe that a rape survivor is responsible for the abuse because of her mode of dressing. The initiative serves to change this discriminatory mindset by educating boys who will act as protectors rather than poor bystanders or perpetrators.

The impact of the cafe to date has been tremendous, especially with an increased awareness and knowledge base of the adolescent boys from the sessions. Some findings revealed that 85 per cent following these sessions strongly agree that consent from a girl is important and should be respected and 98 per cent of the young boys now understand the position of the law with respect to rape in Nigeria.

Currently in Nigeria, there is no curriculum available on the prevention of sexual violence designed exclusively for boys; with the data collated from these sessions and with the use of best practices, the long term impact of the initiative is a boys oriented curriculum that will be designed by the foundation and made available in all secondary schools across the country.

You are a recipient of USAID recent grant. How would that help in curbing rape and related assault?

Truly, WARIF was one of the recipients of a grant by the United States Agency for International Developments (USAID) to promote improved medical services, psychosocial counseling and other associated assistance such as referrals for survivors of sexual assault- all carried out at the WARIF Centre. The grant will also be used to increase awareness and prevent sexual assault in adolescent aged secondary school girls through the WARIF Educational School Program (WESP) where 400 selected secondary school girls will participate in the programme from the school district IV in Lagos State.

A gender sensitisation training programme will also be organised with key officials of the Lagos State law enforcement agencies. The training programme will enhance the knowledge base with gender-based violence, increase awareness and encourage best and appropriate practices when dealing with sexual assault cases.

How were you selected for this grant?

We were selected based on the strict criteria that was met, which includes a well structured Sexual Assault Referral Centre; an insightful needs assessment carried out by the foundation that identified and had a good understanding of the needs to be met and had available, the right strategy best suited to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence; and a successful execution and implementation of the strategy by qualified staff was assured and effective stakeholder management practice was put in place.

How do you intend to measure the impact of this funding?

We have, as part of our initiatives set in place, monitoring and evaluation protocols for the collation, evaluation and analysis of all data collected. This includes baseline surveys which are always administered first, as was the case here, to establish the measured need and determined the measured outcome of the initiative. Our post project measurement methodology then involves an assessment of beneficiaries three to six months after project completion to determine the impact of the implemented initiative. The duration of the grant is from May, 2018 to October, 2018.

Who are the direct benefactors of the grant?

The direct benefactors of this grant are the survivors of rape and sexual assault seen at the WARIF Centre for care and services offered, senior secondary school girls between the ages of 13 – 16 years and key officials from the Lagos State Nigerian Police Force.

How do you intend to curb the prevalence of sexual violence in Nigeria?

It is important to note that all WARIF initiatives under the three main pillars Treatment/Intervention; Education and Community Service are designed to curb the prevalence of sexual violence across Nigeria. Through the treatment and services offered, women have a safe haven where free services and social welfare are readily available; Educational initiatives empowers and prevent the prevalence of sexual violence with secondary and tertiary students through specific target oriented initiatives and with implemented community service initiatives and strong awareness advocacy campaigns on the prevention of sexual violence, carried out in urban and rural communities. All of which have a positive impact on reducing the prevalence of the gender based violence across the country. We intend to reach even more young girls and women.

Before now how have you been funding programmes against gender based violence?

We are a nonprofit organisation that relies solely on sponsorships by corporate bodies such as Diamond Bank Plc, grants from organisation like the ACT Foundation and donations from generous individuals who donate funds as well as pledged charity events such as an upcoming Mount Kilimanjaro climb later this month organised by some friends of WARIF. We are grateful to all who support and see the importance of the work we carry out but there is yet still so much to be done. Our collaboration with USAID through Pathfinder International is currently based on the present cycle of ongoing projects but we are excited at the prospect and opportunity for a continued and long-lasting relationship with the organisation beyond this.

What advice do you have for the society on issues of rape, sexual abuse and violence?

The survivors of rape and sexual violence should understand that they are not alone; they should speak up and seek help! There is no shame or guilt, as this is an act committed against them and it is never their fault regardless of how the incident occurred. To the general public; our call to action is for us all to be good by-standers; to take on the collective role of being protectors of the more vulnerable members of our society and to join in the fight against rape and sexual violence.

What are WARIF’s aspirations on the long run?

WARIF since its inception has made tremendous strides in making direct contact with survivors through medical intervention; education on the prevention of sexual violence in different cohort age groups; as well as increasing awareness with strong advocacy campaigns and initiatives in urban and rural settings. We have placed a spotlight on the issue of gender based violence in Nigeria; reaching countless women through our initiatives and educating the public at large on these issues. As much as we have accomplished, there is still so much work to be done; as one in four girls are still being documented as survivors of rape and sexual violence before age 18 in Nigeria. Our aspiration is to have societies free of rape and sexual violence globally, touching lives all across the world, starting from our nation – Nigeria.

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