GBV: NGO takes campaign to secondary schools in Cross River
Eme Offiong, Calabar
The campaign to end all forms of Gender-Based Violence GBV in Nigeria has reached children in secondary schools across the 18 local government areas of Cross River State, south-south Nigeria.
The Project Coordinator of Gender and Development Action, GADA, Mrs Akon Bassey-Duke said that the organization decided to take the campaign in form of debate to secondary schools across the state as part of its contribution to end GBV.
GADA organized a debated for some secondary schools in Calabar as part of its programme to mark 16 Days of Activism on GBV.
Catching them young
Bassey-Duke remarked that the focus of the campaign sponsored by the United Nations Spotlight Initiative and the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA, was “to encourage young people, especially the children, who may have witnessed such violence at home or around them and even in the school, to speak out.
“We are concerned about prevention and we are assisting young people to be assertive and speak against violence as well as seek help by visiting established safe spaces. Safe spaces are centres we have set up for care, counselling and generally handling GBV to protect survivors against stigmatization,” she said.
The GADA Project Coordinator explained that the agency also introduced schools debates as one of the avenues to sensitize the children and test their understanding of GBV related issues.
She commended the students, teachers and principals of secondary schools especially the West African Peoples Institute, WAPI, for collaborating with the organization in hosting the debate finale.
Stemming the culture of silence
The United Nations Population Fund Reproductive Health and Family Planning analyst, Dr. Abayomi Afe congratulated GADA for organizing the training to empower young children to speak out against gender based violence.
Dr. Afe noted that GBV, especially Violence Against Women and Girls, VAWG, thrives in the culture of silence, noting “most children are afraid to speak out about what they may have experienced or seen. So, this is commendable and deserves the support of the UNFPA and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative.”
Afe hinted that Cross River was noted for being the second state in the south-south Nigeria region after Bayelsa State with a rate teenage pregnancy and GBV cases.
“Cross River State has the second highest teenage pregnancy rates in the south-south region, about 14 percent; and Cross River State is diverse in terms of cultural practices like the money marriage practice.
“So bringing this advocacy to young people like this is to raise awareness about some of these harmful practices that are promoting gender violence.
“We want the young people to know that there are people they can talk to about their experiences. We want them to speak out and know that there are agencies and organizations that can help them fight gender based violence.
“I am sure since we have hit hard on the subject, they are leaving this place with a great sense of awareness and resolutions to kick out sexual and gender based violence.”
The United Nations analyst recalled that during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the agency received reports of increased gender based violence cases, saying “in an average home, one-in-three women experience gender based violence. In some places, two out of three. This was because during the pandemic, everyone was at home.”
On plans to reach more schools with the message, Afe assured, “we are going to scale out to more schools by next year. We are using a Snow Ball approach to do this advocacy. Gender Based Violence can happen to anybody, irrespective of class or status, so let us not cover it up. Let us speak out.”
Highpoint of the competition was the presentation of trophies and prizes to the participants and their schools.