By Philip Yatai

The Empowering Women for Excellence Initiative (EWEI), on Saturday sensitised members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Kaduna Polytechnic Chapter, on prevention of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).

EWEI’s Programme Officer, Gender, Mr Mendie Jeremiah, said at opening session of the seminar in Kaduna, that the orientation was under the “We for Them (WFT)” project.

Jeremiah, who is also the Secondary Focal Person, WFT, explained that the project was being implemented in partnership with Africa Women’s Development Fund.

He said that the project specifically aimed at decreasing the rates of SGBV, with a particular focus on sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces.

He said that EWEI would be working with allies from ASUP, a male-dominated union of Kaduna Polytechnic to implement the project in the next two years.

He said that a total of 50 academic staff were selected from five colleges of the institution to participate in the implementation of the project.

He identified the schools as College of Engineering, College of Science and Technology, College of Environmental Studies, College of Administrative Studies and Social Sciences, and College of Business and Management Studies.

“It is important to state that this project recognises the power, influence, and intellectual nature of the union as a strategic ally to reform.

“This will ensure the implementation of existing legal instruments that address sexual harassment in this institution.

“Together, we will speak out against this social problem that has prevented members of our communities from developing and using their full potential, especially women and girls,” he said.

He described sexual harassment as an “unwelcomed, unwanted sexual advances, and other verbal or physical contacts of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive environment”.

He said that sexual harassment was also a form of violence against women, causing distress, and can be physically and emotionally dangerous.

“For example, it is harassment when women are asked for sexual favours in return for grades, jobs, promotions, or salary raise in places of work.

“WFT is similarly being implemented with members of the Kaduna chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers and together, we expect to reach more than 4,500 primary and secondary beneficiaries,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr Courage Galah, EWEI’s Senior Programme Officer, Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning, said that the approach would include raising awareness about GBV toll-free help-line and support systems for survivors.

He said that other approaches include advocacy, training, community mobilisation, and service delivery.

The Chairman of the union, Abubakr Abdullahi, lauded the initiative, adding that it would support ongoing efforts by the management of the institution to curb the incidence of SGBV in the polytechnic community.

Abdullahi said that the polytechnic has already set up a committee that looks at issues of sexual harassment, adding that sensitisation of the polytechnic community was also ongoing to discourage the trend.

He said the efforts were already yielding the desired result, saying “so far, only one reported case of sexual harassment was recorded in the last three years” .

“We have sensitised members of the union to see the students as their children and role models while calling on the students to desist from enticing lecturers with sex for grades.

“The support of EWEI under the “We for Them” project will significantly help us to entrench the norm of protecting women and girls in academic environments from all forms of SGBV,” he said.

Also, Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, thanked EWEI for the initiative, adding that it would go a long way in supporting the government to curb SGBV in households and public places.

Baba, who was represented by Mrs Biniriyi Abba, Principal Executive Officer 1, Gender Affairs Department, said that the ministry would work with the NGO to deliver the objectives of the project.