NIGERIA – Various forms of abuse abound in Nigeria. Adolescents, especially females, are vulnerable to sexual abuse in both private and public spaces including homes, offices, markets, and schools. This abuse frequently goes unreported for fear of stigmatization, further victimization, and shame. Talented adolescents in communities across Nigeria struggle to retain their hopes and dreams because they are traumatized by abuse.
This abuse frequently goes unreported for fear of stigmatization, further victimization, and shame. Talented adolescents in communities across Nigeria struggle to retain their hopes and dreams because they are traumatized by abuse.
In 2013, World Renew, in partnership with Beacon of Hope Initiative and with funding from Global Affairs Canada, implemented a four-year project in Nigeria to enhance the health, security, and life skills of unmarried adolescents. With the support of a private donor, World Renew and Beacon of Hope Initiative expanded the project to include 8 more communities. The project, entitled Protecting Adolescent Health and Rights, provided for the support and education of students through education and peer counseling, as well as the creation of school environments in which the issue of sexual abuse is dealt with openly.
The support of trusted peer group members, her parents, and her mentor have bolstered Maurine’s self-esteem and she is facing her studies more peacefully and trusting God for a bright future.
Young people participating in the project’s programming experience a five-part curriculum. The first component examines gender roles, the influence of culture, and the importance of good dreams for adolescents. The second part of the curriculum focuses on adolescent relationships and their associated impact on emotional, psychological, physical, and social development. The third part deals with sexual violence; participants identify risk factors, consequences, and prevention strategies. In part four, students learn about menstruation, contraception, the risks of adolescent pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections. And the final part of the adolescents’ program asks them to identify how they might use the lessons and skills they have learned to enact change in their own community. It also provides them assistance in organizing community events aimed at reaching others.
Maurine (name changed for confidentiality) was raped by an uncle when she was seven and again when she was twelve years old. Her parents did not provide an environment in which she could tell them what had happened. She says she struggled with a strong hatred against men.
Now 15 years old and a participant in the Protecting Adolescent Health and Rights project in Plateau State, Maurine has been part of a peer group at her school for over a year. Group discussions about healthy love relationship and sexuality, choosing a good mentor, the risks of adolescent pregnancy, understanding and talking about sexuality, communicating reproductive rights and relationship boundaries, saying no with your voice, body, and actions, and preventing sexual violence all empowered and encouraged Maurine to open up to her mentor about the rapes she had experienced. With the help of her mentor and improved communication and relationship with her parents, Maurine was finally able to tell her parents what happened. Maurine’s family wrestled with the situation and decided to confront her uncle, who apologized and was reprimanded openly and asked to relocate.
Maurine received HIV counselling and screening and thankfully tested negative. The support of trusted peer group members, her parents, and her mentor have bolstered Maurine’s self-esteem and she is facing her studies more peacefully and trusting God for a bright future. Maurine knows her experience is a lesson to others in the community. “My story,” she says, “will help many other ladies.”
In addition to empowering adolescents at risk for or already struggling with abuse, the Protecting Adolescent Health and Rights project encourages school administrators to create an environment where adolescents can thrive by formulating (and ensuring compliance with) policies aimed at preventing abuse in schools, both sexual and otherwise.
Reports from school administrators indicate that the ongoing project is helping to reduce sexual abuse cases in participating schools. Administrators of the eight secondary schools involved in the project reveal that, before the commencement of the project, they did not realize the value of establishing and documenting policies to check sexual abuse. They have since seen the usefulness of setting up safe reporting channels through which adolescents may report cases involving staff and students. “Unlike before,” says the principal of Divine Academy Secondary School of Ogberia, “the documented policy and improved understanding we have on this subject is enabling us to address abuse cases with ease. We have been able to expel a male student who sexually molested a female counterpart and have also suspended a teacher for harassing a female student. We have seen the gain of doing this and we will continue to enforce the policy and improve on it. Parents who are aware of this development are happy with us and are giving their support.”
A participating adolescent peer educator in one of the participating schools notes that the Protecting Adolescent Health and Rights project is enabling them to report cases which violate their rights without fear of victimization.
Prayers for Nigeria
- Thank God for a successful end of program year and pray for wisdom and direction as we move into another year of transforming lives and communities and promoting peace in communities prone to violence.
- Nigeria is preparing for general elections in 2019. Presidential and national assembly elections are scheduled for February 16, 2019 with governorship and state houses of assembly elections two weeks later. Pray for both peaceful campaigns and elections. Pray also that credible people will be chosen to provide good governance and purposeful leadership that will move Nigeria forward.
- Pray for eradication of terrorism and other forms of insurgency in Nigeria.
World Renew Nigeria