By Debo Akinbami

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
workshop for Public Secondary Schools’ Counsellors, being part of the efforts of Ondo State’s First Lady, Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, at curbing the disturbing rate of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence among vulnerable girls in the state State, continue today in Akoko, the northern part of the state.

The workshop, holding between Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st March, 2021,
at Akoko South West local government Secretariat, Oka-Akoko, was organised through Mrs. Akeredolu’s Non-Governmental organisation, Betty Anyanwu Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF) to
train 40 Public Secondary Schools’ Counsellors on SGBV.

Sponsored by the Bobagunwa of Oka Land, Dr. Olusegun Ategbole, the programme is supported by the Ministries of Education, Women Affairs & Social Development, Justice and the Office of the First Lady of Ondo State.

Addressing participants at Oka-Akoko Headquarters of the local government, the BAAF Coordinator, Mr. Austin Otabor, explained that the workshop seeks to achieve, among other things, making counsellors to differentiate between sex and gender, know the relationship between gender and gender-based violence, define appropriately Gender-Based Violence, identify types of gender-based violence in the setting, its causes and perpetuating factors, and understand to the principles of human rights, GBV legislations in Nigeria

Other objectives, according to Mr. Otabor, include training participants on the importance of the violence against persons prohibition Act (VAPPA), how to establish and run successful Anti-GBV clubs in schools, identify early warning signs of abuse among school girls, how to report Gender Based Violence causes, understand ethical issues related GBV, qualities of a good GBV counsellors, the dos and don’ts of GBV response, and knowing the challenges of handling GBV cases and how to address them.

Otabor, who said part of the goals of the workshop is to have them develop plans for building prevention and responding to GVB for follow-up and continuing action after the workshop, said counsellors have a pivotal role to play in the fight against SGBV because they are the closer to the students and saddled with the responsibility of encouraging and motivating students. He noted that the programme is citizen-driven and that BAAF was committed to training the Public Secondary Schools’ Counsellors across the 18 Local Government areas of the state.

“It is revealed that the girls spend most of their times in school and that they interact more regularly with their teachers, some of whom are the counsellors. This is the reason the programme is deliberately designed to equip the counsellors to identify early warning signs of abuse in the students. So we are building the capacity of these counsellors and prepare them to take a proactive approach in responding to gender-based violence. Statistics have shown that victims are mostly young girls of secondary school age. This effort is particularly to encourage victims of sexual and gender-based violence to speak up, to stop being silent,” Otabor said.

Recall that the workshop on Sexual and Gender Based Violence, an initiative of the First Lady of Ondo State, Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, kicked off with training Public Secondary Schools’ Counsellors in Akoko North East and North West local governments at Akoko North West Local Government Secretariat on Wednesday 17th February, 2021.

Speaking on the significance of the workshop on GBV, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Gender Research and Documentation, Mrs Temitope Daniyan noted that the issue of SGBV has become very prevalent in the society to the extent that it is now a must for stakeholders to intervene. She said ‘this need for prompt intervention is what the wife of Ondo State Governor, Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, is doing with the laudable initiatives of training and distribution of SGBV Yellow Cards.’

The State Chairperson of the Federation of Female Lawyers, FIDA, Mrs Bola Joel Ogundadegbe who took the participants through SGBV legislation in Ondo State, mentioned the need to encourage victims with medical, psychosocial and legal support. She also encouraged girls who suffer any form of abuse.to should speak up and report to the police. She discouraged discrimination against women and commended the approach adopted by of the First Lady in fighting SGBV.

In her words, Director of Guidance and Counselling, Ministry of Education, Ondo State, Mrs.Ademuyiwa Frances Olufunke, described the assignment of handling sexual and gender-based violence as a great one and a task that must be done. She encouraged counsellors should be sensitive enough to discern signs of abuse in the students, saying “We should not just write off students, we should probe. Also, confidentiality should be our watchword, whatever information we receive in confidence is not meant for public consumption.”

Reacting to the training, a participant, Mr. Abdulwaheed from Olaoluwa Grammar School, Oka-Akoko, said ‘the initiative is a great one that must be commended; although the workshop is for counselors of public secondary schools, it should also be extended to our mosques, churches and clubs for the message to reach more people.’

Another counselor with Audua Grammar School,Ipe-Akoko, Mrs Omobola Olubimpe from Awooluwa Grammar School, Ipe-Akoko, said “one very important lesson I have learned from this workshop is not to indulge in victim-blaming when cases of sexual and gender-based violence happen around me as a counselor. This programme is an eye-opener and we appreciate the First Lady for the training.”

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is any harmful act of sexual, physical, psychological, mental, and emotional abuse that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed differences between males and females.