The Lagos State Government on Thursday, launched a 24 hours helpline to rapidly respond to survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
This followed a 35 per cent surge in reported cases of GBV during the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the SGBV Referral System was launched by the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT).
The project was made in partnership with the European Union-funded Spotlight Initiative, Women’s Helping Hands Initiative and with technical support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The virtual system will provide uninterrupted access to trained service providers by providing 24/7 through a toll-free helpline 08000333333 with the social media hashtag #safetyinanumber.
Depending on their needs, clients will be provided with services such as counselling, legal and medical via the telephone and where physical contact is required, they will be referred to the relevant service providers.
Speaking virtually, the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo lauded the DSVRT on the initiative.
Osinbajo is also the Executive Director of Women’s Helping Hands Initiative, one of the organisations which partnered with the DSVRT on the virtual system.
“I advocate for awareness of gender-based violence, to enlist more people in communities to join the fight against gender-based violence.
“I am also eager to advocate and seek an effective punishment for perpetrators to the full extent of the law.
“Watching more closely, listening more intently, is what we ought more to do,” she said.
In her address, the Country Representative of the UNFPA, Ms Ulla Muller described gender-based violence as a gross violation of human rights.
She noted that providing accessible gender-based violence services was a step in attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“In the SDGs, gender equality is an intrinsic and stand-alone goal. If we do not deliver on SDG 5 (gender equality) we will not be able to deliver on the SDGs.
“According to the UN Nigerian Demographical Survey of 2018, 27.7 per cent of women in Lagos has experienced physical violence before the age of 15 that is more than 2.5 million women in Lagos alone.
“Prior to the pandemic, 16.6 per cent of women in Lagos state sought help to end gender-based violence that is more than a million women.
“It is with great pleasure that I am in a state that has decided to work with us and the EU to address these challenges.
“The GBV virtual referral service is a flagship for us and is an innovative service delivery model.
“It has inspired us and grew out of COVID-19 and it tells us that something good can come out of a crisis,” Muller said.
In her remarks, Ms Titilayo Shitta-Bey, Lagos State Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice said the virtual system was established due to barriers to access services by survivors of GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The aim of this initiative is to expand the capacity of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) to provide services virtually.
“Through this innovation, we will be able to ensure holistic support to survivors at no cost and survivors will be encouraged to actively pursue justice on their road to healing,” she said.