The escalating rate of sexual abuse involving minors has got the attention of a human rights group and a financial institution, writes Special Correspondent, MARY OGEDENGBE.


rape-sexual-assaultOver 95 per cent of sexual abuse cases involving children and young persons are carried out by people known to them. An analysis of 155 cases conducted by Project Alert in 2012/2013 revealed that 70 per cent of victims of sexual abuse in Nigeria today are children and young persons below 18. It is against this backdrop that a partnership was formed between Project Alert and Access Bank to combat the incidence of sexual violence in Nigerian schools.


They are collaborating to enlighten students in secondary schools on sexual violence.


The Executive Director of Project Alert, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, pointed out at the recent pre-project commencement press briefing put together by both parties that, “Schools (primary, secondary and tertiary institutions) and homes (orphanages, motherless babies) have become a breeding ground for paedophiles, who sexually abuse children and young persons. As an organisation, we have had cause in the last four years to fight some schools and homes where sexual abuse of children was reported.


“Therein lies the importance of this partnership with Access Bank. Project Alert and Access Bank have decided not only to be reactive, but proactive. By this, we mean that both organisations do not just want to sit down and wait for a child or young person to be abused and then take action, but want to raise awareness in schools among students, parents, teachers, non-academic staff and the management, to help prevent and reduce the risks of children being sexually abused.”


Therefore, the campaign is aimed at ending all forms of violence against women and young girls with the focus being sexual violence.


She also pointed out that the organisation has enjoyed the support of different individuals and companies, but a sector that has been somewhat silent on the issue is banking.


Her words: “For years, organisations such as ours have been in the forefront of advocating for zero-tolerance to all forms of violence against women. We have done this with support from various funding agencies, corporate organisations and philanthropic individuals. However, one sector that has been silent over the years, and not publicly identified with the issue of violence against women and girls, has been the banking sector.”


To achieve this, Project Alert under the school-based advocacy programme has embarked on reaching out to eight to 10 schools every term with the support of Access Bank.


Effah-Chukwuma added in her speech: “Today, one bank has broken that silence; one bank has taken the bold step to take a stand and identify with the cause. One bank is standing up to say no to sexual violence as it affects children and young persons in Nigeria. That bank is Access Bank. Today, Access Bank is commencing a journey that would endear the bank to the hearts of families, women and children (especially young girls). Today, Access Bank is declaring that it cares for the teeming Nigerian youths being sexually abused by people they know, love and trust.”


On why Access Bank chose to stand out to support such a laudable cause, the Development Banking Group Officer of Access Bank, Babatunde Olabiyi, explained that the bank has been focusing on projects like this, as it was what anyone and everyone can relate to.


He stated further that the project would not be a one-off event, and that the bank would be giving its full support to keep the project alive.


“It is a partnership, a relationship which does not have a tenure. It is a cause that is really dear to Access Bank, and we all can relate to the plight of a young girl being raped. We would always be there to support Project Alert,” Olabiyi said.


Olabiyi said also that they are delighted in the partnership because the secondary schools provide the right opportunity to fine-tune the students into becoming responsible and accountable adults in the future.


Further, Effah-Chukuma stressed that the project is focusing on schools mainly and not the community at large because if one school is successfully reached, it can educate its environs.


She said: “The schools are a very important category because you are reaching out to everyone – the parents, management of the school and those who live in the communities as well. Once you get to them, there is a multiplier effect.”


The project does not only focus on educating the young boys alone about sexual abuse, but also the young girls. Although, female molesters make up a low percentage compared to the male, Effah-Chukwuma insists that sexually abusing either a male or a female still remains wrong.


In addition, the project provides materials which the students can take home to teach their family members and those who live around them the importance of desisting from sexual violence.


She emphasised also that there is no discrimination in selecting the schools. The area of coverage include both private and public schools. The students would be reached via the counsellors of the respective schools.


Moreso, to ensure the efficiency and widespread knowledge of the things acquired from the programme, a feedback system has been designed.