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LASG, PSN roll out code scheme to tackle SGBV

By Tobi Awodipe
07 November 2021   |   2:43 am
The Lagos State Government through the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Agency (DSVRA), recently launched a partnership with pharmacies in the state for the purpose of further tackling domestic

Sexual violence. Photo; TECHCABAL

The Lagos State Government through the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Agency (DSVRA), recently launched a partnership with pharmacies in the state for the purpose of further tackling domestic and sexual violence cases with the “Speak to INU” code scheme.

This was disclosed recently at training for pilot community licensed pharmacists. A bi-annual analysis of the agency from January to June of this year revealed that at least 60 per cent of SGBV survivors sought assistance at community pharmacies. Of this number, 50 per cent declined to go to a police station or hospital for medical attention. These statistics, according to the agency’s Executive Secretary, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, was obtained from the survivors who reported to the agency. “They were more comfortable accessing support at their community pharmacies,” she noted.

She explained that to ensure survivors have easy access to services, they entered into a partnership with the Lagos State branch of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria to introduce and implement the Speak to INU (I Need U) code scheme to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence.

“The Speak to INU code-word scheme is to enable victims of domestic abuse access immediate help from the agency, police, health facilities or other support services from the safety of their local pharmacy. We believe that the pharmacy environment lends itself well to this scheme. Indeed, the pharmacy can be a safe space for survivors of domestic violence. To this end, survivors of domestic and sexual violence would be able to make use of the code in accessing help and other relevant support. This would be provided for by the pharmacist, and where necessary and desired, onward referrals would be made to us,” she said.

An introduction into the Speak to INU code scheme was presented by the Chairman of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Lagos Branch, Lawrence Ekhator. Also, PSN chairperson, Lagos State, Gbolagade Iyiola, said community pharmacy is the first point of call for most survivors, especially during COVID-19. “Globally, it’s been found out that community pharmacy is the first point of call for people needing health services. We’re looking at developing tools for community pharmacists to use for people who report at their pharmacies and refer them to government facilities and from there, the DSVRA will follow up for necessary action,” he said.

Director at the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Omotola Rotimi, also noted that pharmacists need to know what the law says about domestic and sexual violence and the punishment for each offence. “Most people don’t know what the law says and most offenders don’t know there are punishments attached to the committed offences.

There is a need to sensitise the pharmacists so that when survivors come to them to get medication, they will know that they have the responsibility to report. Most times when people are violated, they go to the pharmacists for treatment, rather than going to the hospital and they don’t escalate these cases. So, the pharmacist must know the background of the case and what the law says and the punishment for each offence or violation,” she said.

Vivour-Adeniyi added, “Survivors can use the INU code or tick on the prescription sheet that they would like to speak to a pharmacist privately, and a referral pathway is activated for the survivors from that point. So, asides from receiving medical attention, survivors can also access help. During the lockdown last year, most of our operations were done online. People were calling to report cases. But in the absence of a police report or medical examination by the doctor, there’s no evidence to corroborate what the survivors’ say, and we know they were going to the pharmacists because we asked them where they went to and most times, they said they went to a pharmacy, but they told the pharmacist that they hit their head. So, we need to leverage on what is existing in the community and make the pharmacy a safe place for a survivor to share and be informed on support services available.”

Selected pharmacists were trained on gender roles, understanding sex and gender, raising the index of suspicion, relevant laws that regulate sexual and gender-based violence in the state, as well as an overview of the support services for survivors in Lagos State.

Iyiola reiterated the association’s commitment to ensuring that survivors of domestic violence, who report at community-licensed pharmacies would be able to access holistic care and support through effective referrals. Survivors of domestic violence are, therefore, encouraged to take advantage of the Speak to INU initiative, and access help at their community licensed pharmacists, as such cases will be treated confidentially.