• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Women groups mobilise religious leaders to increase awareness on gender-based violence

Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF)

The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) in partnership with the Aspire Coronation Trust (ACT) Foundation is set to commence the third cycle of the WARIF Gatekeepers Project by including religious leaders of all faiths from the community to the task of increasing awareness of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) across the country.

The prevalence of GBV in Nigeria is becoming epidemic affecting an average of 1 in 4 girls before the age of 18. The impact of which is seen in almost every community across the country.

“The organisation is already achieving this through its various initiatives; however, aims to eradicate gender-based violence (GBV) through the training of gatekeepers across Local Government Areas in Lagos and these gatekeepers consist of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) and Law Enforcement Agents will now include Religious Leaders of all faiths from the community,” said Kemi Dasilva Ibru, the founder, WARIF.

Dasilva Ibru, said that Cycle 3 of the Gatekeepers Project recognises the role and importance of religious leaders in rural communities across Nigeria, stating that it emphasizes the large circle of influencing these community leaders to hold in their respective places of worship and in their communities.

“We anticipate that the addition of religious leaders who are respected community mediators as our tertiary Gatekeepers in this project will lead to an increase in awareness, a change in the prevailing mindset of the community and a subsequent reduction in the number of cases of violence against women and girls reported.”

“WARIF believes this goal will be readily achieved with the inclusion of these new trustworthy and respected tertiary Gatekeepers and will make an impact on a wider reach of men and women in the society at large,” she said.

Meanwhile, the project was launched in 2017 with the successful training of 1000 traditional birth attendants across 15 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Lagos State who served as first responders to cases of rape and sexual violence. The second cycle the following year was an equal success with the inclusion of law enforcement agents as secondary gatekeepers; these officers were trained on the right protocols to address cases of sexual violence as well as the importance of sensitivity when addressing the affected survivors.

“Following two successful cycles of the Gatekeepers community-based project, sponsored by ACT Foundation, community leaders such as the Traditional Birth Attendants and Law Enforcement Officers were engaged and trained on becoming first responders in cases of gender-based violence. This led to an increase in the awareness of this menace in their respective communities and a documented increase in the number of cases reported to the WARIF Centre,” DaSilva-Ibru stated.

Also commenting on the WARIF Gatekeepers project, Osayi Alile, Chief executive officer (CEO) of ACT Foundation noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world saw a rise in cases of gender-based violence.

“This showed us, that while many strides have been made to end violence against women, there is still a long road ahead of us. Programs like the Gatekeepers project are so important when it comes to protecting women, because they address the root causes of gender-based violence, and work with communities to break down the stereotypes and negative norms.

“By working with religious leaders, who often hold a significant amount of influence in their communities, the program ensures a wider and more effective reach. At ACT Foundation, we are committed to supporting women, at all levels, and we are excited to play our part by supporting WARIF,” she said.