– By Adewale Elisha Adeyanju (INN Reporter, Lagos)
Advocacy for Women With Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI) – a Disability NGO, has reiterated the nation’s need for bold advocates of zero tolerance to sexual and gender based violence in order to reduce the spate of SGBV against women and girls with disability.
The call was made by AWWDI Programme Manager – Mr. Kolawole Jayeoba during a training for self-help group leaders in Lagos State. Focus of the training was on reporting sexual and gender based violence against women and girls with disabilities in the local Disability Community.
According to Jayeoba, “many people believe that WGWD have no sexual feelings. So in violating and abusing these women, perpetrators think they are helping them and therefore expect them to appreciative of the abusers.
He went on to sound a warning: “no matter what, such abuses and violations should be reported”. An indignant Jayeoba noted that many Women and Girls With Disability are dying in silence. Many do not know their rights or where and how to report the abuses”.
Citing a vivid example in the Northern part of the country, where SGBV cases are rampant, the program manager said: “some WGWD are isolated in the north – caged and denied their rights. They are treated like animals and frequently violated.
He was therefore emphatic on the need for bold and consistent advocates to take the crusade for “Zero tolerance of SGBV against women and girls with disability” to all nooks and crannies of Nigeria”.
The training which held on Wednesday 26 April, 2023 at De Ritz Hotel, 4, Tiwalade Close, Allen Avenue Ikeja -Lagos was jointly coordinated by Mrs. Ebemabo W. Komi, the Lagos State Chairperson of AWWDI and Mr. Jayeoba AWWDI National Program Manager. The project is supported by Actionaid Nigeria and funded by Global Affairs Canada.
The Program Manager identified barriers to reporting SGBV cases. According to him, some of these include: shame, associated guilt and stigma, lack of access to medical care; concerns about confidentiality and being believed; and fear of possible reprisal attacks from reporting to the police.
Similarly, Jayeoba cited poverty and costs of reporting SGBV cases such as transport fare and litigation to be borne by complainant as other obstructing factors leading to out of court settlements.
Gender inequality has also been cited as a barrier to reporting SGBV cases, especially among the female victims. Gender inequality renders a lot of women submissive and economically dependent on their male partners who, sometimes are the perpetrators of the violence.
On whom to report SGBV cases, the program manager listed among others: trusted family members/friends, any person she/he knows may be of assistance, community, traditional or religious leaders; school teachers, caregivers, parents, peers, medical officers, health workers or camp leaders – in a situation where the victim is in a camp for IDPs.
Others are Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Faith Based Organizations (FBOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Social Welfare Officers(SWOs), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
Victims were encouraged to use the following channels of reporting: “walk in”, writing letters of complaint and social media handles/hotlines of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency via 08000 333 333 (toll free).
The trainees were also given addresses of supporting agencies like the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian, Disaster and Social Development, the Nigeria Police Force, NAPTIP, NSCDC , NHRC, etc.
The training covered techniques for collecting, using and protecting data of victims.
Trainees were informed on what an SGBV victim should do immediately a rape happens, as evidence when reporting to appropriate authorities.
Participants were also exposed to other helpful information for tackling the SGBV menace like: how victims can access social protection and support systems, referrals, and a range of services including but not limited to: material assistance, medical, legal, psycho-social supports, shelter, documentation, etc.
In conclusion, the training was well rounded, and participants were charged to go all out and be champions and advocates of zero tolerance to SGBV wherever they find themselves – while teaching other PWDs.