SWAN tackles gender bias, sexual harassment
With the growing rate of sexual harassment in higher institutions, the Society of Women Accountants of Nigeria (SWAN), an association of the female members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), is sensitising young people, especially girls on making right decisions to further advance them.
Speaking to students of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, at the campus auditorium, National Chairperson, SWAN, Nwamara Catherine Nnaji said over the years, young innocent children have gone through the ills of being gender biased either at home, from parents who make them feel that the boy child is more superior than the girl child, or in schools where some believe that the male child should receive better-advanced education than the girl child, or even in offices where in some cases, salary scale for the male differs from the female.
“Asides from having to suffer the pains of gender bias, both the female and male children are victims of sexual harassment at home, in school, even in churches/mosques, in offices and police stations. The truth is, the girl child is not safe anywhere, and her vulnerability is taken advantage of, so there is a great need to enlighten and shield as much as we can, right from birth.”
Nnaji noted that while sexual harassment is increasingly being reported as an issue of major concern amongst students and staff on campuses across the globe, it has been confirmed to have social and psychological consequences on the victim. However, the scale of the menace is underplayed because of the under-reporting of cases.
According to the Coordinator, Bimbo Odukoya Foundation, Aderonke Oyelakin, for sexual harassment to be managed in schools, campuses should provide health centres, psychological services and sexual assault services and make them accessible.
She said, “There should be a trained and efficient counselling unit that will help students speak up. Sexual violence is a serious problem in our schools in Nigeria and as stakeholders, we must be committed to preventing sexual violence in colleges and universities.”
While noting that violence on campuses includes a continuum of behaviours such as attempted or completed rape, sexual coercion, unwanted contact, non-contact and unwanted experiences among others, preventing sexual violence of all types requires a shift in culture and climate.
“Primary prevention which is preventing violence before it occurs, is difficult work and change takes time as culture change doesn’t happen overnight. Studies show that one in five women experience attempted or completed sexual assault during her college years,” he said.
Oyelakin noted that men also experience sexual assault, hence to address this problem, there should be a task force to protect students from sexual assault with periodic seminars to sensitise students on prevention of sexual assault.
A legal practitioner, Uche Ekezie, who spoke on the legal implication of sexual harassment said the law is abreast of these ills and would bring justice to those who are victims.