The European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, says ending gender-based violence and sexual assault remains a top priority of the mission in Nigeria.
But to make the plan to work, the envoy has called on all stakeholders to join hand with the mission to end the scourge and restore the dignity of the victims.
Karlsen made the call at a meeting with editors on a campaign being planned by the EU-funded ‘The Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme'( RoLAC), to enlighten Nigerians and create awareness about the services being provided by the 15 existing Sexual Assault Referral Centres in Nigeria (SARCs).
Karlsen said: “We believe that the issue of stopping gender-based violence must be such a priority that should take all hands on the deck. It takes everybody coming together in pushing this agenda,” Karlsen said at the meeting.
The envoy, who described the current situation of gender-based violence against women, girls and boys in Nigeria as a scourge, however, stated that with the support and cooperation of all, the negative trend would be checkmated.
Apart from the problem of gender-based violence in Nigeria, the EU top envoy is also worried about the non-involvement of a significant population of Nigerian women the nation’s decision-making process, thereby placing the country in the last place in Africa in terms of the number of women elected into key offices.
According to Ambassador Karlsen, the results of Nigeria’s last general elections clearly demonstrated the difficulty involved in ensuring that women participate in decision-making processes.
The ambassador said: “We want to make it a matter of priority for all Nigerians, women and men alike, and all decision-makers.We in Europe have also not found a perfect recipe either. There is a lot of discrimination against women; there is a lot of violence against women, girls and boys in our own countries as well.
“So, we are not coming here to say we have found a right way of doing it and Nigeria has to follow suit. It is about finding ways forward in dealing with this matter together,” he explained.
The ambassador, who described the EU as Nigeria’s biggest trading partner, pointed out that more than 50 per cent of Nigeria’s export goes to the European market, adding that the strong relationship was responsible for its increased engagement with political engagements and development issues in the Northeast, Middlebelt and the Niger Delta.
The Programme Director, British Council Security, Justice and Conflict Programmes, Dr Bob Arnot, decried the growing rate of sexual assaults against young girls and boys in the country and solicited the support and cooperation of all stakeholders to end the scourge.
In her presentation, the Component Lead, Civil Society Engagement, Oluwatoyosi Giwa, announced that no fewer than 15 Sexual Assault Referral Centres SARCs had been created across the country in a bid to encourage the victims of the crime to report assaults and get some form of assistance within a reasonable timeframe.
Giwa stated, “Between July 2013 and September 2019, the SARCs assisted over 10,000 victims of sexual assault combined, over 70% of who are under the age of 18 years old. The Mirabel Centre alone has helped nearly 5,000 survivors of sexual assault, medical staff at all 15 SARCs have been trained in forensic medical examination procedures and documentation as well as in the provision of psychosocial services to victims of sexual assault.
“While the set-up and operations of the Lagos and Enugu SARCs have been CSO–led, slightly different models have been adopted with the SARCs in Niger, Akwa-Ibom, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa and Anambra, with the aim of increasing the chance that the resourcing, management and oversight of the SARCs will be embedded into state budgetary and resource planning, from early stages. The objective is a greater level of ownership, commitment, a collaboration by key state ministries and agencies, to ensure the sustainability of the SARCs into the future,” Giwa stated.
As part of the flag-off of the campaign against sexual violence, she announced the rolling out of many events among them, advocacy visits to state governments and social media platforms engagements.