Findings from a National Survey carried out in 2014 on Violence Against Children in Nigeria confirmed one in four females reported experiencing sexual violence in childhood with approximately 70% reporting more than one incident of sexual violence. In the same study, it was found that 24.8% of females’ ages 18 to 24 years experienced sexual abuse prior to age 18.
The Women at Risk International Foundation was set up to combat this scourge as well as provide a safe haven for young girls and women who have survived sexual violence. In this interview with YNaija’s Impact365, we learn about the NGO, its mission and the WARIF Centre built to provide medical and psychological support to survivors.
Can you tell us about your NGO?
Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) is a non-profit organization that was incorporated in 2016 by Dr. Kemi DaSilva MD; MPH in response to the growing incidence of sexual assault, rape and human trafficking occurring amongst young girls and women across Nigeria. The NGO was set up to raise awareness and advocate against the increasing prevalence of sexual violence experienced by women and young girls of all ages and the consequences of this problem, both immediate with health and psychosocial risks to the victims as well as the long term societal problems that subsequently occur such as poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
What is the inspiration behind setting up this NGO that tends to rape and sexual abuse victims?
Founder and visionary of WARIF, DR Kemi DaSilva-Ibru MD; MPH is a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist with decades of experience that have exposed her to the devastating effects of sexual violence especially among women and young girls whom she prefers to refer to as ‘Survivors’ instead of ‘victims’.
The youngest child she’s treated is about 2 years of age and there is also a young mother who is just over 11 years of age, both survivors of sexual abuse by those close to them. In-spite of inadequate data, the anecdotal figures are staggering and this is why WARIF was set up; to address this high incidence of this concern with the development and implementation of intervention and preventive initiatives.
What actions have been taken in providing help to these survivors of sexual violence?
One of the first initiatives we took was to establish a Sexual Assault Referral Centre: WARIF CENTRE in Yaba, Lagos. It opened in December 2016. The centre is intended to serve as a protoype of sorts, once we can considerably call it successful, it will be replicated throughout the different local government areas in the different states of the country.
The whole point of the WARIF Centre is to address and provide a direct support system to survivors of rape and sexual abuse in the form of Clinical & Forensic Medical Examination Services; a Crisis Helpline; Counseling and Therapy Services; Legal advocacy referrals from the Office of Public Defender at the Ministry of Justice and other private legal aid.
We hear you’re in partnership with the Washington DC Rape Crisis Centre, can you shed light on this?
Yes, we’re in active collaboration with the Washington DC Rape Crisis Centre. That collaboration is what birthed the WARIF Centre earlier talked about. It is a facility which has been designed with care, comfort and safety in mind. We work with caregivers trained by the Washington DC Rape Crisis Centre, who understand that their work is a call to service; a call to fight a seemingly invisible enemy that pushes survivors to suffer in silence because of the stigma of sexual violence.
What other awareness programs does WARIF plan to execute?
We’ve implemented a Youth Based Awareness Program in secondary schools that will later go on to higher institutions in the country. The curriculum is based on creating awareness and the importance of gender equality, a change in behavior and practices and the prevention of gender based violence in our schools and communities.
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