By Kemi Yesufu
Abuja based Non-Governmental Organisation, the Dorothy Njemanze Foundation hosted a 16-day exhibition based on the stories of survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) at its Gudu office.
The exhibition which was carried out in collaboration with government and Non-Governmental Organisations including the National Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and IPAS resulted in a few supporters of the fight against SGBV selecting survivors to assist, whose stories they were touched by.
This much, was revealed by Head of Programme and Production at the foundation, Ms. Preye Diri, who conducted journalists around the exhibition.
She said: “We want to use the exhibition to showcase survivors’ stories and their point of view on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and to highlight their needs. We had some survivors write their stories by themselves and we wrote some of the stories after interacting with survivors. We wanted to find a different way of showcasing survivors’ stories, we wanted to showcase their stories in an artistic way. But we also wanted to send out a strong message on Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Nigeria.
“The exhibition was also organized out of our frustrations. We have survivors hanging around the office, wanting us to support them and we don’t have the resources to support. So, we thought about sharing their stories with them talking about what they need. It was has worked because some people came in here and they’ve said they are interested in helping this or that survivor. So this is what we set out to do, getting support for survivors”.
Also speaking to journalists on the 15th day of the exhibition, Founder of the foundation Dorothy Njemanze, identified poverty as well as the country’s weak criminal justice and welfare systems as the major causes for many survivors suffering in silence.
She said: “The common thread is that all of them have been exposed to abuse. Another thing would be that because they are female, there is no seriousness in handling their cases. A lot of these survivors are dependent on their abusers for daily survival. They need to take permission from their abuser or get transport money to get to the nearest police station, among other things. There is no money to get medical help, some of these people can barely feed.
“We’ve had situations where the police take permission from family to institute action because the survivors are women. We also have forced settlement from law enforcement agents. In our case as respondents to SGVB, we face a lot of hostility”.
Njemanze called on government and the private sector to budget for helping Sexual and Gender Based Violence survivors as it is a critical part of women empowerment.
She said: “We also are underfunded. It is important for people who work around Sexual and Gender Based Violence to be deliberately budgeted for. The government is not the only one responding to SGBV. Government institution don’t work round the clock, we work round the clock. Any progress we make is also the progress government has made.
“NGOs working in the area of Sexual and Gender Based Violence need to be deliberately funded. We work with survivors who just left an abusive situation. Where does a survivor get her first house rent from? Where does a survivor get money to start business from? In real sense, this kind of support doesn’t exist in Nigeria. We need to direct CSR towards worthy causes like ours, it will help us in the frontline and the beneficiaries of the work we do.
Speaking on the most common form of SGBV as gleaned from stories of survivors displayed during the exhibition, she said: ‘It is difficult to say directly which is the most common form of Sexual and Gender Based Violence. But it’s pretty much about people exploiting women’s vulnerabilities. For the people who are religious, there is exploitation of their vulnerability. For the people who revere traditional institutions, people who respect family, people who are in the education system or even in work settings, there is exploitation of their vulnerabilities. There is abuse of power in different settings. So there is sex-for-this and that”.