Developing a Gender-Based Violence Referral Pathway for the Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria

1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence. According to the Gender in Nigeria Report, 2012, available data shows that a third of Nigerian women have experienced some form of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) including battering, verbal abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, marital rape, sexual exploitation, or harassment within the home. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent, and devastating human rights violations in our world today. 

Many GBV cases remain unreported because communities do not trust the capacity of response structures and social norms that allow them to settle cases outside of the law. Therefore, comprehensive protection requires activation of local referral pathways, such as community and leaders, women’s and girls’ groups, and religious institutions, as well as attention to perceptions and practices that can impact prevention efforts and report. Building on laid down structures and actively following up to ensure adoption of referral by authorities is a heartbeat that would nurture to fruition. 

These continuous trends of GBV have made it critical for firm action to be taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Nigerian women and children. Hence the need for a referral pathway that outlines the various support and referral services available to a survivor. Response to Gender-based violence is in a part a Nigerian Government mandate and should focus on building capacity in existing structures. It has become imperative for organizations with expertise in GBV prevention and response work to work with government duty bearers to improve their technical skills deploying the survival centered approach and also to enhance coordination.

The FCT Social Development Secretariat in collaboration with the European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) Spotlight Initiative organized a 2-day workshop aimed at developing a referral pathway for the FCT. 

Participants for this workshop were drawn from the critical government duty bearers alongside civil society and press. They include; the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigerian Security, and Civil Defense Corps, the Federation of Women Lawyers, (FIDA) the Magistrate, the FCT Health and Human Service Secretariat, the Hospital Management Board, the National Primary Health Board, the FCTA Education Secretariat, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NAPTIP) the National Orientation Agency, Civil Society Organizations, and Members of Press.

Cross section of participants, facilitators and organizers at the event

At the event, the Director of FCT Social Development Secretariat (SDS) welcomed participants and charged them to ensure that the objective of the workshop was achieved. 

The Consultant Omokide Chiikodi took the participants through an activity known as the cobweb to x-ray the gaps inherent in GBV issues where there is no referral pathway. The activity made plain the difficult terrain which a survivor navigates in her quest to meet her needs during her travail be it psychosocial support, medical need, security, etc. He also stated that the workshop aims to improve access to services for GBV survivors in a Professional confidential and timely manner.

Participants carrying out the cobweb activity at the event

The objectives are to:

  • Identify viable existing referral pathway/mechanisms.
  • Define and agree on standards and mechanisms for effective referral and information sharing among the various stakeholders and service providers.
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities of the various service providers in supporting survivors.
  • Develop a State Specific GBV Referral pathway.

Some of the outcomes of the workshop which will be beneficial to society include:

  • Participants understood that a referral pathway is a flexible mechanism that safely links survivors to supportive and competent services to help improve the quality and timeliness of services.
  • A clear reporting and referral system is very important so that survivors and/or witnesses to an incident know to whom they should report and what sort of assistance they can expect to receive.
  • This system should be familiar to all members of the community and to all actors involved in providing services to survivors.

The GBV Guiding Principles include ensuring the safety of the GBV survivor, ensuring confidentiality, respecting the wishes of the survivor, and practicing non-discrimination. Children are particularly vulnerable to any kind of violence and depending on their age may be unable to make decisions. It is important to ensure the child/adolescent is always in the company of a trusted adult ideally selected by the child. Other principles are, do no harm, do not seek out child survivors, it is not your job to investigate if a child/adolescent is experiencing violence. Doing so can lead to more violence and risks for the child/adolescent. Be approachable if a child/adolescent etc.

The interactive session led to some discoveries which the SDS would work to address with the support from Spotlight.

A referral is deemed by superiors as failure and incompetence on the part of the investigating officers by superior officers hence survivors may not get adequate help as presumed.

There is an existing gap in knowledge on evidence gathering.

No harmonization on what a case manager should do if a survivor doesn’t want a serial offender prosecuted.

The next session saw the team x-raying the coordination mechanism available in the FCT. The obvious absence of a functional known coordination mechanism spurred participants to clamor for one. By the end of the session, the importance of a GBV referral pathway was given by the participants as:

  • Avoid excess demands on affected populations
  • Avoid duplication
  • Avoid gaps (mapping)
  • Cross-sectoral learning and improved programming
  • Strengthen accountability
  • Efficiency: save time, money, resources.

Story: Ehizogie Ohiani


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