In recent times, there has been an upsurge in reports of Sexual Abuse by persons who are very much supposed to be guardians ranging from Pastors, Imams, Fathers, Uncles, Teachers and Brothers to mention but a few. Defined as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to; Sexual Abuse is a gross violation of human rights and a contemporary social problem of endemic proportion that if left unaddressed would have serious negative and social consequences for children who are the leaders of tomorrow, their families and communities at large. It is exacerbated by silence due to cultural and religious stereotypes on issues pertaining to sex and other bodily assaults. According to the 2018 statistical report on Women and Men in Nigeria published by the National Bureau of Statistics, revealed that the national rape incidences for Women and Girls is on an increasing tender as in year 2017 alone 84.29% females aged between 1-17 were raped at home, 98.82% females aged 1-17 were raped at school and 75.95% Females aged 1-17 were raped in other places even as Section 31 of the 2003 Child Rights Act, Article 34 of the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child and Section 1 of the 2015 Violence against Persons and Prohibition Act decry all forms of Sexual Abuse. There is crucial need more than ever before to address the issue of sexual abuse through Awareness-Raising programs for Adolescents to combat the erroneous perception that Sexual Abuse is acceptable, Comprehensive Sexuality Education aimed at educating Adolescents on Life Skills, Sexuality, Sex Education, Gender Roles and Relations, Power Relations, Responsible Sexual Behaviour, and educating Teachers, Care Givers and other Professionals on what constitutes child sexual abuse. Gender Equality is central to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals even as Target 5.2 recognizes the need to eliminate all forms of violence against all Women and Girls in public and private spaces. Promoting Gender Equality is essential in order to effectively tackle sexual abuse as it is perpetuated by structural gender inequality including unequal power relations and discriminatory norms around the value of Girls’ their sexuality and role in the society even as eliminating gender inequality and empowering young people requires the fulfillment of their basic needs and rights such as the right to live a life free from violence and exploitation.
As the Executive Director of Women and Girl-Child Capabilities and Empowerment Organization (WGCCEO) I am constantly training Adolescent Girls’ on what constitutes Sexual Abuse, effects of Sexual Abuse and how to recognize it. This is because a number of times, Sexual Abuse occurs subtly. I personally was sexually abused by my uncle growing up, I remember one time this uncle of mine would kiss me and squeeze my breast and then would tell me not to tell anyone, he would then buy me lots of suya and sweets. This continued for a very long time until I opened up to my sisters and started running away from him. I am happy and grateful to the Nigeria Country Office of United Population Fund for supporting my NGO Girls’ Safe Space where Girls are equipped with knowledge and skills on advocating for their rights and other issues pertaining to their Sexual and reproductive Rights. The issue is just like me growing up, Sexual Abuse like other Gender Based Violence thrives in Silence and Shame; It is when Women and Girls begin to openly talk about these issues using the new and traditional media would be an effective way to address it as well as shaming the perpetrators who are usually men supposed to protect us Women and Girls.
Through the 16 Days of Activism, I would educate Women and Girls in my community about all forms of Gender Based Violence as well as use social media to engage civil society organizations and policy leaders and even religious organizations on how to effectively tackle Gender Based Violence in which Women and Girls are the most vulnerable while also urging them to take advantage of every opportunity which seeks to ensure that they are empowered so that when they are empowered they would become agents of positive change as they would be using their voice to lead a movement which seeks to lead to the emancipation of Women and Girls and in the end contribute to the actualization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and African Union Agenda 2063.