By Mary Nnah
The third cycle of the Women at Risk International Organisation (WARIF) Gatekeepers Project is set to commence in partnership with the Aspire Coronation Trust (ACT) Foundation.
This project aims to eradicate gender-based violence (GBV) through the training of gatekeepers across local government areas in Lagos.
These gatekeepers who consist of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) and law enforcement agents will now include religious leaders of all faiths from the community.
The project was launched in 2017 with the successful training of 1000 traditional birth attendants across 15 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Lagos State who served as first responders to cases of rape and sexual violence.
The second cycle the following year was an equal success with the inclusion of law enforcement agents as secondary gatekeepers; these officers were trained on the right protocols to address cases of sexual violence as well as the importance of sensitivity when addressing the affected survivors.
Cycle 3 of the Gatekeepers Project recognises the role and importance of religious leaders in rural communities across Nigeria. It emphasises the large circle of influence these community leaders 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. WARIF believes this goal will be readily achieved with the inclusion of these new trustworthy and respected tertiary gatekeepers and will make an impact on a wider reach of men and women in the society at large.
Sponsored by ACT Foundation, the project saw the fostering of good relationships between the TBAs and law enforcement agents in previous engagements, ensuring that survivors received the assistance that was needed and cases were reported in a timely fashion.
Speaking on the inclusion of religious leaders in this cycle, WARIF’S Founder, Dr Kemi DaSilva-Ibru noted, “following two successful cycles of the Gate keepers community based project, sponsored by ACT Foundation, community leaders such as the TBAs and law enforcement officers were engaged and trained on becoming first responders in cases of gender based violence.
“This led to an increase in the awareness of this menace in their respective communities 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 mind set of the community and a subsequent reduction in the number of cases of violence against women and girls reported.”
While also commenting on the WARIF Gatekeepers project, CEO of ACT Foundation, Mrs. Osayi Alile, noted, “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.
“Programs 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.
“By working with religious leaders, who often hold a significant amount of influence in their communities, the program ensures a wider and more effective reach. 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 WARIF for treatment and to the Law Enforcement, for apprehension of the perpetrator and prosecution.
WARIF is a non-profit organisation, established to raise awareness and address the prevalence of rape, sexual violence and trafficking of young girls and women in communities across Nigeria.
This the foundation achieves through the development and implementation of a series of initiatives which are impactful, measurable and sustainable, targeting both the intervention/treatment of these affected women, as well as providing preventive measures to reduce the high incidence. The foundation seeks to re-dress the adverse effects seen because of Gender Based Violence.
ACT Foundation is a non-profit, grant making organisation that supports local, national and regional non – profit organisations working to address challenges and associated vulnerabilities across the African Continent.
The foundation aims to leverage relationships to create effective social impact solutions across Africa, and to build sustainable societies by engaging initiatives that unleashes potential and empowers beneficiaries.
ACT Foundation focuses on the areas of health, environment, entrepreneurship and leadership.