Anita Kemi Dasilva, chief executive officer and founder, The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), a specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with a medical back-ground that extends to Public Health. A qualified and experienced specialist since 2002, Dasilva has worked in Lagos for over 10 years in private practice, where she has dedicated her time to working closely with non-government spoke to BusinessDay’s OBOKOH ANTHONIA on a number of issues on gender based violence and how to deepen the psychological effect, stigma and the need for government to support. Excerpts:
How do you define gender based violence?
Gender Based Violence comes in many different forms and can be found within a family, community and in the society. It is an act of violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women. This includes threats, depriving one of their freedom and liberty as well as acts of coercion whether occurring in public or in private life. The most pervasive form of gender-based violence against women is rape. It affects all young women regardless of theirs race, class, culture or socio-economic status.
How do you intend to deepening action to reduce sexual and gender based violence in 5 years’ time?
In a society where Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is often met with silence and survivors are left ashamed, guilty and without a voice, The Women At Risk International Foundation WARIF in active partnership with the Washington DC Rape Crises Centre, the DSVRT, other NGOs and most recently, the ACT Foundation has marked a year of significant impact in the war against GBV in Nigeria.
WARIF has adopted a two prong approach in addressing the issue of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in our society.
The first part is an intervention strategy with the establishment of our first sexual assault referral centre in Yaba –The WARIF Centre; a warm friendly facility which serves as a safe haven for survivors with the provision of FREE medical care, psychosocial counselling and addressing the social welfare needs of women by a full time team of qualified staff available six days a week including all public holidays. This Centre serves as a prototype with the opening of other WARIF Centres planned over the next 5 years in other Local Government Areas across the state and the country.
The second aspect in addressing this issue is with preventive initiatives; designed and implemented by the Foundation.These initiatives all have the WARIF hall mark of being impactful; with a measured response and are all sustainable. The WARIF Educational School Program WESP is one such on-going initiative; addressing Gender Based Violence in secondary schools by educating secondary school girls on the signs and prevention of GBV and changing the prevailing mind set of the girl-child through a specially designed curriculum introduced to both the child and her parents in various communities. This initiative will be expanded over the next 5 years to other local government areas in other parts of the country.
How would you address the fundamental gaps against gender based violence by leaving no one behind?
The rural population in Nigeria is reported at 51.4per cent (according the 2016 World Bank Report) which accounts for slightly more than half of our total population; 50per cent of whom are women. Recognizing this fact and the urgent need to address the issue of Gender Based Violence (GBV) on a grass root level in rural and peri-rural communities; the WARIF Foundation has implemented the Gate Keepers Project. A community based initiative where five hundred Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAS) from selected rural and peri-rural local government areas are trained in the signs and prevention of GBV; equipping them with the necessary tools in addressing the issue in the various communities these TBAS serve with the assistance of the WARIF. This approach to tacking this issue has had a significant positive impact on the number of cases now being identified and treated in these once hard to reach comminute and ensuring that no woman is left behind in addressing this problem.
Celebrating one-year anniversary how has been the journey so far?
This has been a very rewarding journey so far. With the assistance of other organizations WARIF is collaborating with, a spot light has been placed on the issue of Gender Based Violence in Nigeria. An increasing number of women have sought assistance at the WARIF Centre with over 360 beneficiaries attended to in the last one year both as visits and with the 24-hour confidential help line available.
Our Preventive initiatives such as the WARIF Educational School Program (WESP) with the education of the girl child has shown an increased awareness and knowledge about GBV in this groups of secondary school girls and a reduction in the number or cases that are prevalent as a result of this. Women are being empowered to speak out against this abuse and more and more have taken to doing so on different media and online platforms, encouraging others to come forward. There is still so much work to be done but it is a good start.
What is the foundation’s core focus for the coming year in terms of field projects?
The foundation has quite a few impactful field initiatives that are on-going that will continue throughout 2018 in addressing the issue of gender based violence; however, one important focal area being added in 2018 is the prevention of gender based violence through the education of not just the adolescent girl –child but educating the boy-child also. The WARIF Boys Conversation Cafes is a new initiative consisting of a specially designed curriculum for boys and will be implemented in secondary schools across the state; This will assist in identifying and measuring the prevalence of the issue and will educate and change the mind set of young boys in their attitudes towards gender inequality that exists in our society today and thereby prevent the violence against women that subsequently occurs as these boys reach adulthood.