By Philip Yatai

The Empowering Women for Excellence Initiative (EWEI), has partnered the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Kaduna Polytechnic branch, to strengthen the implementation of the polytechnic’s Policy on the Prohibition of Sexual Harassment.

Ms Jelilat Abioye, EWEI’s Technical Adviser, Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning, stated this at the first seminar on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) for the academic staff of the institution in Kaduna on Saturday.

Abioye explained that the seminar was designed to enlighten the academic staff on vulnerability, exploitation, and the effects of SGBV.

She said that after that, EWEI would work with the academic staff to work on the school GBV policy, build their capacity on policy review, policy management and policy administration.

According to her, the goal is to ensure that the GBV policy is effectively managed and administered.

“This, we hope, will lead to a state where students have the confidence to report GBV incidents and the lecturers can be trusted to handle the situation and pursue justice for the survivors.

“For today, which is the first seminar, we are introducing SGBV vulnerability, exploitation, and effects; and Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law and the punishments stipulated in the law for offenders.

“This will open their minds to know more and inspire them to want to be part of the solution and not the problem,” she said.

Abioye noted that more women are being abused than men, adding that the effect on women is horrific, leading to unwanted pregnancies, mental and psychological breakdown, and severe sexually-transmitted diseases.

“These among other factors are the reason EWEI keeps advocating to end sexual harassment and abuse in public places.

“This is to help create a society where women feel safe; where they can be themselves, be themselves and achieve their potential,” she said.

EWEI’s Programme Officer, Gender, Mendie Jerimiah, stressed the need for stakeholders to support the protection of the rights of individuals either at home or in public spaces.

Jeremiah, who takes the participants through fundamental human rights as provided for in the 1999 Constitution, added that the rights of GBV survivors must also be protected.

He identified some of the rights as the right to assistance, to support anyone who has been abused, facing sexual harassment and GBV.

“There is also the right to GBV survivors’ access to relevant information such as legal information, health, and social services.

“The GBV survivors also have right to rehabilitation and reintegration back to the society through psychosocial support, skills empowerment, formal education, and economic strengthening

“This is the responsibility of all, and we are expecting the ASUP and the polytechnic community to support any survivors of GBV the best way he or she can,” he said.

Earlier, Ms Rachel Ogbonna, Senior Programme Officer, Organisational Development and Partnerships, described the seminar as the beginning of a journey towards reducing sexual harassment and abuse in the polytechnic community.

Ogbonna explained that the seminar was under the “We for Them (WFT)” project, being implemented in partnership with Africa Women’s Development Fund.

She explained that the project specifically aims at decreasing the rates of SGBV, with a particular focus on sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces.

She added that EWEI would be working with ASUP, Kaduna Polytechnic, and Kaduna chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers to implement the project in the next two years.

According to her, the project is expected to reach more than 4,500 primary and secondary beneficiaries.

The Chairman of the union, Mr Abubakar Abdullahi commended EWEI for supporting the polytechnic to review and strengthen the implementation of the school GVB policy.

Abdullahi assured that the union would work with the polytechnic management to ensure effective implementation of the policy.

He explained that the policy was designed to ensure the subsistence of a secure, non-sexist, non-discriminatory and non-exploitative atmosphere for students, staff, agents and visitors.