The Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN) Programme is working to address the culture of silence around sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). In Yobe state, the stigma is preventing survivors of sexual assaults from making use of the state's Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
With support from MCN, the Yobe State SARC Steering Committee has undertaken a number of initiatives in partnership with the International Federation of Female Lawyers:
- Engaging traditional and religious leaders on the existence of the SARC and the services it provides so that they can encourage community members to report cases of SGBV.
- Educating students in secondary schools of the need to report cases of SGBV and the availability of the SARC to provide services to survivors.
- Capacity building workshops for school, principals, teachers, traditional birth attendants and the National Union of Road Transport Workers regarding SGBV, their respective roles in reporting incidents, and helping survivors to access medical, psycho-social and legal support.
- Raising awareness via the media on the increased incidences of SGBV and the services provided by the SARC.
- Rebranding the SARC to the ‘Shifa Centre’, which means ‘healing’ in Hausa language adapted from Arabic language, to address concerns about stigma.
The initiative has recorded some successes:
- The advocacy initiatives aimed at school authorities and students have led to the establishment of gender desks in secondary schools where students can report cases of SGBV.
- School authorities have agreed to establish student clubs that will help to raise awareness about SGBV and encourage students to report suspected cases of sexual offences.
'There is a noticeable increase in the number of cases of sexual offences reported to family support units and the SARC...'