Nigerian government not doing enough to ensure justice for victims of sexual violence – Ogunrotimi
Omowumi Ogunrotimi Esq is the Founder and Executive Director of Gender Mobile Initiative. She is a multi-disciplinary legal practitioner with demonstrated experience in policy advocacy, Gender-based violence programming and community mobilization. She has worked in over 50 rural communities advocating for safe spaces for vulnerable populations particularly girls and women. She sits on the Ekiti State Gender-based violence management committee chaired by the Ekiti State first Lady. In this interview with Godsgift Onyedinefu Omowumi explains more about Gender Mobile and its programmes. Excerpts.
TCan you tell us about the Campus pal initiative? hree years ago, we founded Gender Mobile Initiative, essentially to bridge the existing gaps in terms of reporting cases of sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and we set up a call centre infrastructure. Within one year of launching the call centre, we realised that over 80% of the reports that we recorded emanated from campus communities which shows that there is a high prevalence of sexual harassment in environments of learning.
Then we moved into the campus communities and with support from the Ford Foundation we piloted in four schools. First, we found out that there were no grievance redress mechanism structures to ensure that people can report cases. Institutions lacked sexual harassment policy which is even the first step in terms of addressing legal compliance. Beyond that, we felt it was important for us to create a community where students can provide some other form of support to their fellow students on campus. That informed our effort to launch into campus communities, essentially to provide support to drive systemic change in our campuses seeing the spate of sexual harassment and that is why we launched the Gender Mobile Campus Pal.
This Campus Pal App is a feature-rich application, it’s the first of its kind in Nigeria, specifically for environments of learning. Even junior lecturers who are sexually harassed by senior lecturers can use this app.
What is your biggest motivation to carry out this initiative?
I was a victim of sexual abuse when I was 14, the experience defined my career path, basically to study law and to advocate for the rights of girls, children and women. The most striking experience for me was
losing my childhood best friend to rape at the age of 12. That experience was really defining for me. Several years later, I studied law, went to the Nigerian law school and rather than settle for that line of profession that is very profitable, I decided to set up Gender Mobile Initiative to improve the spate of reportage of cases, because there is a nexus between reporting and prevention.
The issue of sexual harassment keeps evolving, with this App, we can collate data which informs better policy response and manage cases effectively. We can hold institutions responsible and announce when their institutional response is poor, What this does is that, it makes them accountable because no institution wants to be dragged on the pages of newspaper or social media as not being responsible on issues that this sensitive and critical like this.
When you also look at the access to education, it’s really important that we nib sexual harassment in the bud, If we want to attain that level of inclusion, where boys and girls can go to environments of learning in a very safe way; An environment that is free of violence environment where their educational goals will not be limited.