GBV Champions: Breaking the Culture of Silence
Gender Based Violence (GBV) remains a leading case of human rights violation in the world, cutting across, nationality, colour, gender and class. Over the years, this crime has seemingly gained acceptance as a result of the ‘culture of silence’ and impunity for perpetrators. Consequently, it has remained under-reported leaving survivors with the long-term impact of physical, mental, and psychological injuries, while perpetrators are left to walk freely with impunity.
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5; gender equality, victims now survivors can not only enjoy protection and justice, but rehabilitation and empowerment to lead a life free from stigma and discrimination associated with this menace.
The Global agitation and call to end all forms of violence against women and girls, necessitated a multi-stakeholder approach in coalitions, partnership, collaboration and networking by Civil Society Organizations, Government and its agencies, and Non-Governmental Organizations. Frontline workers and champions against GBV have been literally everywhere; communities, state, national, global, physically and online, advocating for not just an equal society, but a society free from all forms of crime and impunity against humans.
Global index reveals a growing trend in GBV, with rising cases recorded in times of crisis, disasters, banditry and the global 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. In 2020, approximately 47,000 women and girls were killed worldwide by their intimate partners or other family members; over 1.7 million Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) complaints received in 2021 in Nigeria, and about 401 women lost their lives in 2022 as a result of GBV.
The National Human Rights Commission said there were 524 complaints of SGBV against women in Kaduna State alone, in 2021.
Ending Sexual and Gender Based Violence
With the establishment of the Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) by the Kaduna State Government under El Rufai’s administration, one would expect a decline in cases, but it seems incidences are constantly on the rise. However, it is interesting to note that the rising number of cases does not necessarily mean an increase in GBV cases, but also an indicator that more people are starting to speak up and calling for help, thereby breaking the Culture of Silence.
Champions Against SGBV
For SGBV Champions like Mrs Grace Yohanna Abin, aka Mama Salama, the Centre Manager, Salama Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) Kafanchan, situated at Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa Memorial Hospital, Kafanchan, the journey has been worth every step of the way.
In an attempt to end SGBV, the Kaduna State government established four SARCs in 2019 in the state at the following locations; Gwamna Awan General Hospital-Kakuri, Yusuf Dantsoho Memorial Hospital-Tundun Wada, Gambo Sawaba General Hospital-Zaria, and Ibrahim Patrick Yakowa General Hospital-Kafanchan, all in Kaduna State. These SARCs were set up in all the three senatorial zones of the state so that people don’t have to travel long distance to get intervention or services. Currently the Centres provide psycho-social and referral support to victims and survivors of SGBV.
Mrs Yohanna who has been the Manager of Kafanchan SARC since inception said at the onset, she thought SGBV was non-existent in the zone; however, in the first month in February 2019, they recorded 2 rape cases, March 7 cases, and subsequently 14 cases. The increasing reports propelled them to strategize and increase awareness about zero tolerance against all forms of SGBV, “as I speak with you now, last month we recorded 60 cases in Kafanchan”; comprising Kachia, Sanga, Jaba, Jema’a, Zango Kataf, Kagarko, Kauru and Kaura Local Government Areas (LGAs), the 8 LGAs in Zone 3.
Reviewing a summarized report, the following cases have been captured in Kafanchan SARC from January 2019 to August 2023; a total of 3,168 different types of assaults, 2,723 women, 444 men. Out of the total 3,168, 528 were children; while the remaining 2,640 were abuse on adult male and female, and about 320 10% were rape cases.
As a Centre she said, “We look at prevention, accountability and protection for our survivors, and intervention helps them to bounce back”. According to her, when survivors refuse to speak, they remain victims for as long it takes, “that is why we keep advocating for people to speak up quickly”.
Unlike other forms of SGBV, rape cases are a crime against the state, and must not be handled at the family level, else the victim may not survive it. Mrs Yohanna spoke passionately emphasizing that must be encouraged to survivors speak without fear of stigma or further harassment, adding that the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law ensures that perpetrators are punished and that survivors enjoy protection and compensation where necessary.
As the SARC Manager, she said they have enjoyed support from other NGOs like Equal Access International, Centre for Integrated Health Programme, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), CLEEN Foundation, Scripture Union, International Alert, United States Agency for Internationa Development (USAID) and the Lizzy Anche Foundation who support through capacity building trainings, provide equipment for the center like laptops and mobile phones etc. According to her, the Lizzy Anche Foundation is currently working with the Centre to empower survivors by building their capacity for self-reliance through entrepreneurial skills.
Mrs Yohanna said there are countless challenges in the pursuit of justice for the survivor, these challenges include loss or lack of evidence during investigation, bureaucracy, willingness of survivors to cooperate with the process and poor funding. “We have challenges sometimes, if the referral pathway is not duly followed” it could tamper with the evidence, these are some of the issues associated that interfere with cases. She highlighted that in the case of a rape, the first thing to do is to go to hospital for a medical examination to collect evidence, afterwards, the person would be referred to security agencies like the Nigeria Police Force to file a report and then the Centre can commence provision of psycho-social support. “Medical first, even if you bring that person to the Centre, I don’t begin to engage the person, the highest we can do is to the get the name of the person for the first time for the doctor to write down recommendation for examination. Before we say tell us your story, the doctor will take her story first in order to examine her”. She said there is a referral pathway at the community and the Centre; any case reported to the SARC is forwarded to the security after medical investigation, the security conducts further investigation.
For Mrs Yohanna, the synergy she enjoys from the community; security, vigilante groups, community leaders, religious leaders is a plus which makes the work easy for the Centre.
As an SGBV Champion, Mrs Yohanna said what stands out as success for her is that the culture of silence is being broken, “women are now speaking up, that is a success story”. “Both Muslims and Christians are speaking up, when people see me and wave, that is enough success for me”. Speaking with so much joy, she said children even come to the Centre to report their parents. People know about the Centre and are assured that there is always someone who will listen to them.
So far, we have about 3 life imprisonment, protection order, several court orders.
Speaking with Lizzy Anche Foundation (LAFF), Emmanuel Abba Great, the Consultant and Strategist of the organization said they realized that after the counselling intervention for survivors of SGBV, there is little SARC Kafanchan could do for the women to sustain them, hence LAFF decided to support these women through its empowerment arm, providing entrepreneurial skills to survivors, he said the 6 months training has helped build resilience for survivors.
Mr Abba shared the story of a woman was challenged by the training, and decided to get a loan of 2,500 naira from her sister, he said she used the money to start puff puff business, currently her business has grown and she expanded into piggery. “We are planning the graduation of these women, and we are trying to see how to empower them with a little startup for them to be able to do something with what they have learnt”.
This is part of our sustainability plan for these women, to see that they are able to support their homes financially. We have also set up a cooperative since we cannot take care of all their needs. The cooperative will help the women after graduation, through it they can seek for funds and other forms of financial partnership. “This is a journey that has just started, and we are looking forward to do more in Kafanchan, Kaduna State and beyond”.
In the course of this report, it was revealed that there are still cases of human trafficking in Kaduna and Nigeria, source recount how children were trafficked to Burkina Faso last year, stating that some have been successfully reunited with their parents, others returned with babies. “We have a lot of human trafficking both within the country and outside the country”.
SGBV Champions continue to call on people, whoever can support as the government cannot bear the responsibility alone. The prevention, protection and rehabilitation process are financially demanding, there are no limit to the amount of support needed to end this social pandemic. Civil Society Organizations, Government and its agencies, Non-governmental organizations and Corporate bodies (through Corporate Social Responsibility) must put heads together to ensure that no one is safe until we are all safe.
Sexual Assault Referral Centres as a one-stop location for victims of all forms of SGBV, some needs include; clothing, consumables like bath soap, cream, detergent, etc. these items are used to support survivors who come to the Centre with torn clothing; the Centre helps by providing change of clothing for such victims before the commencement of intervention.
There are currently 29 SARCs in Nigeria, 17 out of 36 states and the FCT providing free medical, counselling and support services to survivors of SGBV.
Find the directory to SARC nearest to you here