In view of the high rate of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, the Abuja arm of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Advocacy (ASHA) Cluster, comprising Gender Mobile Initiative (GMI) and Youth Alive Foundation (YAF), has called for an increased engagement of stakeholders and extensive education to curb the menace.
The Policy Lead, GMI, Sarah Egbo, disclosed this in Abuja on Friday at the Stakeholders Dialogue Forum on Curbing SGBV to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV).
The event was convened by the Anti-Sexual Harassment Advocacy (ASHA) Cluster which comprise a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) focused on addressing sexual harassment in environments of higher learning.
Egbo said that signing the sexual harassment bill into law was not enough, as it required the continuous capacity building of stakeholders to fight against sexual harassment in environments of learning.
She continued to state that “Signing the bill into law is just the starting point of the journey, not a silver bullet solution.
“We definitely need to engage diverse stakeholders across government, non-government and educational sectors such as the NAPTIP, NHRC, Police Force and the Federal Ministry of Education.
“We must conduct continuous capacity building sessions on sexual harassment prevention and response while also equipping stakeholders’ knowledge of how they can apply the bill when passed, so that the bill is implemented, not just printed out and placed somewhere in the library,” she said.
Egbo also highlighted Gender Mobile’s ‘Campus Pal App’ which enables students to confidentially report cases of sexual harassment as a primary feature, in addition to other features such as access to onboarding information, educational materials, safe space and open forum conversations within and across campuses.
She encouraged students to make use of the CampusPal app, stating research indicates that increased level of reportage could deter perpetrators of sexual harassment.
She added that the CampusPal app could be downloaded on Google Play Store and Apple/iOS Store.
She also highlighted that GMI had collaborated with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC) to co-develop the National Policy on sexual harassment prohibition for higher education institutions, which is aligned with the aforementioned bill.
She also highlighted the efforts of the ASHA cluster, whereby members individually and collectively employed strategies such as advocacy engagements, capacity building sessions, leveraging technologies to receive and address cases such as the CampusPal app and strategic litigation.
Also, CSP Rosemary Onwordi, a Gender Desk Officer of the Nigeria Police Force attaché to Force CID Area 10, called on victims to always report cases of sexual harassment.
Mrs Onwordi stated that sexual harassment is a cancer that the police cannot handle alone as it requires the collaboration of critical stakeholders across sectors.
“If lecturer with their level of exposure and education is trying to make a female student a prey for what she has read, the mark she suppose to earn honourably, he want to now divert it to sex, it becomes a thing of concern”
” And that is one of the reasons why we are advocating for them (victims) to speak out. Don’t die in silence and allow the menace to thrive, stated Mrs Onwordi.
In the same vein, Ola Alozie, the Investigation Officer, Women and Children Department, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) advocates for awareness creation as the first step to curbing the menace in educational institutions.
The event was productive as participants expressed commitment to be agents of change and work collectively to address sexual harassment and other forms of GBV in educational environments and the society in whole.