Everyday we hear horrible stories of victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and all sorts of inhumane treatment which women in Nigeria are exposed to. Society begins to ask questions like: why did she stay? Why didn’t she leave? But, where will these women go to?

Most times they can’t go back to their parents, out of shame, or for of reproach. Other times it’s because they are financially incapable or leaving; the weight of the despair and helplessness is heavy upon them. So, they stay… waiting for hope, salvation, peace and a quiet from all the noise. Sometimes the silence comes only when they’re dead.

What can be done to reduce the number of victims of domestic violence and rape? Where is the safe haven for women?

Dr. Kemi DaSilva Ibra‘s new organization, Women at Risk International Foundation, is providing a safe haven for victims. She shared, with BellaNaija, the inspiration behind the foundation.

Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) is a non-governmental organization that was incorporated in 2016 by Dr. Kemi DaSilva-Ibru in response to the high incidence of sexual assault, rape and human trafficking occurring among young girls and women in Lagos State and across Nigeria.

As a practicing Obstetrician and gynaecologist with 10 years experience in this health space, I have noted over the years, a rising number of gender based violence cases directed at young girls and women. I have also witnessed and treated first-hand the harrowing effects of rape and sexual violence amongst these women in our communities. Characteristics such as the age, religious affiliation, race or social economic class of the young girls and women I have treated over the years is also varied. These effects from the assault are both immediate with physical and psychological harm experienced by the affected women who I believe should be seen and referred to as “survivors” and not “victims” and the long term, with social consequences such as an increase in the rate of new HIV cases, unwanted pregnancies and adverse effects on the education and empowerment of the girl child in our society.

Although the country data available on this problem is limited, the numbers are alarming with 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, 5.0% sought help, with only 3.5% receiving any services.

The foundation serves to address this issue of gender based violence, through the successful implementation of target –oriented initiatives; The first immediate intervention was the opening of the foundation’s first sexual assault referral centre in Yaba – WARIF Centre – which serves as the prototype for a warm friendly safe haven for women at risk. It provided through qualified full time staff, medical treatment and forensic examinations needed especially within the first 72 hours of an assault; Psychosocial counselling is carried out by trained social workers who obtained specialized training by staff from the Washington DC Rape Crisis Centre in Washington DC (one of the organizations in partnership with WARIF). A 24-hour confidential help line is also available at the centre to address the needs of those who call for assistance or to report an assault.

WARIF has a strong collaborative spirit and works with many organizations in the same health space. We have developed strong international and local collaborative ties with both government and non – government agencies to assist in addressing the social welfare needs that often times arise in the care of young girls and women at risk. This is done through the provision of shelters, legal aid and vocational skills. As an official member of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence (DSVRT), WARIF continues to work closely with government agencies including the judiciary and law enforcement in addressing the prevalence of gender based violence in our communities.

Other on-going preventive initiatives is the implementation of strong advocacy campaigns to raise awareness, such as the #menforWARIF campaign seen on International Womens Day 2017; an impactful social media campaign where male participants engaged and shared personalized fliers with endearing quotes passing on a crucial message to end sexual violence and discrimination against women.

The WARIF Educational School Program commencing in May 2017 is also set to raise awareness and educate the adolescent boy and girl child in various Lagos State Secondary Schools, through the implementation of a specially designed youth educational program on Gender Based Violence, introduced into their school curriculums.

As a nonprofit organization, all the services provided by the foundation, including all services provided by the WARIF Centre are offered FREE of charge. The foundation relies solely on donor funding from organizations, corporate bodies and private individuals.

For more information about WARIF:
Visit our website – www.warifng.org
Follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) – @warif_ng

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