Creation and strengthening of safe spaces for girls in schools has been identified as a vital tool to address the menace of Child Sexual Abuse within and outside schools in Lagos State.
This was identified by various education stakeholders at the end of a two day Education Stakeholders’ reflection session and Stakeholder meeting organized by Human Development Initiative in collaboration with Action Aid Nigeria.
The stakeholders noted that Child Sexual Abuse and the culture of silence have been rampant within and outside the school environment and in-turn affecting the retention of the girl child in schools.
It was however recommended that strengthening of safe spaces for girls within the school; would encourage girls to share their challenges amongst themselves and female teachers or Guidance and Counseling experts and as a result reduce their vulnerability of being victims.
To address the issue of Child Sexual Abuse, it was also recommended that there is need to increase awareness of girls and parents on what constitute abuse and ensure the provision of adequate information on how to report offenders. It was noted that perpetrators are encouraged to continue violating and abusing girls when they know that such girls and their parents or guardians cannot report such cases.
It was also recommended that “Strengthening Guidance and Counseling units in schools through recruitment and training of professional counselors can also help to address the menace of child sexual abuse in schools.”
Speaking further on the creation of Safe spaces for girls in school, Samuel Ajayi, Programmes Officer, Human Development Initiative explained that the girls can be trained on how to become models and advocate of girls’ rights.
Ajayi added buttressed that the creation of such safe spaces is imperative at the early stage because of the need to build girls early enough.
“Women and girls are socialized to play a subordinate role in the society, to achieve development on a sustainable basis, women and girls must be supported and empowered to compete for positions traditionally reserved for boys and men, this will be more effective if it is done in the early stages of the girls’ development,” he added.
He urged all the school representatives in attendance to drive the success of the safe spaces to ensure it is sustained adding that teachers need to relate differently with their students to ensure the goal of the project is achieved.
On his part, Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, Lagos State Chairman of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, JONAPWD advised that the “tools for profiling members of the girls club should be disability sensitive and the composition of the club must ensure adequate representation of all classes.”
He said in doing so, the safe spaces will be inclusive and girls with disabilities who are more vulnerable in regards to child sexual abuse can be adequately catered for.