On 8 December 2020, the Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) Programme, in collaboration with the Rule of Law and Anti-corruption (RoLAC) Programme, hosted a storytelling event for civil society organisations (CSOs). The event named ‘Share to Support and Prevent’ focused on the CSOs advocacy response to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was organised in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in Nigeria, reports showed an increase in violence against women, especially in rural communities. CSOs were on the frontline in their communities and played a key role in raising awareness about the increase in cases, and providing support for victims of sexual assault.
CSOs shared stories about their experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown, and how they successfully carried out their activities. Due to movement restrictions, CSOs had to 'think out of the box' with their advocacy efforts and to strengthen the response for survivors of sexual assault. For example, mobile phone hotlines and website chat functions were set-up quickly to help victims remotely. CSOs also worked together in coalitions to amplify awareness about SGBV.
CSOs dialogued about these innovations and the challenges faced. They shared stories of resilience and progress in their advocacy work. CSOs called for increased awareness of issues surrounding SGBV, especially in hard to reach communities. Recommendations were developed for the key follow-on actions required by stakeholders across several sectors including CSOs, the media and government agencies.
Over 60 stakeholders participated in the virtual event, including CSO partners, the Mirabel Centre (Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Lagos), media organisations, and the Nigerian Bar Association. The event was streamed live on the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and reported on by several radio stations, newspapers, and online platforms. It showcased the important role of CSOs as agents of change.
"During lockdown, CSOs took action and provided essential support for GBV survivors. We hope this event will increase awareness and galvanise advocacy efforts to end GBV in Nigeria."
Hafsat Mustapha, ACT
“Government should urgently consider the response to cases of SGBV as essential services…The response should be all inclusive, addressing issues of access to justice, psychosocial support, among others.”
Bose Ironsi, Executive Director, the Women’s Rights and Health Project
“For survivors of SGBV to get justice, the culture of silence must be dealt with.”
Bukola Afeni, reporter, Newsday Online
“The lockdown exposed children to many negative issues. We came up with innovations to address these issues...including a robust synergy between CSOs, the media, security operatives, women's groups, traditional and religious leaders.”
Mainasara Umar, Child Protection Network, Sokoto