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WARIF trains religious leaders on handling victims of sexual violence

By Blessing Ogodo
24 August 2020   |   4:15 am
The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), in partnership with Aspire Coronation Trust (ACT) Foundation, will commence the third cycle of the WARIF Gatekeepers Project...

Dr Kemi DaSilva-Ibru

The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), in partnership with Aspire Coronation Trust (ACT) Foundation, will commence the third cycle of the WARIF Gatekeepers Project, which aims to eradicate gender-based violence (GBV) through the training of gatekeepers across Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Lagos.

These gatekeepers, including Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) and law enforcement agents, will now incorporate religious leaders of all faiths at the grassroots.

The project was launched in 2017 with the training of 1000 TBAs across 15 local councils in Lagos who served as first responders to cases of rape and sexual violence. The second cycle in 2018 saw the inclusion of law enforcement agents as secondary gatekeepers, who were trained on the right protocols to address cases of sexual violence as well as the importance of sensitivity when addressing the affected survivors.

The third cycle of the Gatekeepers Project recognises the role of religious leaders in rural communities across the country and the huge influence they hold in their respective places of worship in their communities. With the inclusion of these leaders, an anticipated increase in the level of awareness is expected with a significantly higher number of cases of sexual violence being reported.

Speaking on the inclusion of religious leaders in this cycle, WARIF’s founder, Dr Kemi DaSilva-Ibru, said: “Following two successful cycles of the community-based project sponsored by ACT Foundation, this led to an increase in the awareness of this menace and a documented increase in the number of cases reported to the WARIF Centre.

“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.”

Ms Osayi Alile, CEO of ACT Foundation, said: “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. Programmes 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.

At ACT Foundation, we are committed to supporting women, at all levels, and we are excited to play our part by supporting WARIF.”

A total number of 600 gatekeepers will be trained in this cycle, who will be equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to raise awareness, support survivors of rape and refer these cases immediately to WARIF for treatment and to the security agencies for apprehension of perpetrators for prosecution.