Building Bridges to End GBV & Increase Young People’s Access to SRH Information and Services
An Amplify Change Project of CIRDDOC in collaboration with CENGOS
The Amplify Change is a fund which aims to empower young people, men and women to realise their sexual and reproductive rights. It supports civil society and grassroots organisations working in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that advocate for and promote respect for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of women and adolescents. Amplify Change has four grant types, Opportunity Grant, Strengthening Grant, Network Grant and Strategic Grant covering five thematic areas.
The Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), a human rights organisation is implementing a Network Grant in collaboration with the Coalition of Eastern NGOs (CENGOS) – an umbrella organisation of over 100 NGOs. CENGOS is present in 9 states of the former Eastern Region. However, the project was located in 6 states (Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Rivers, Cross River, Ebonyi) for a start in 2015 and two other states (Abia & Akwa Ibom) were added in the second phase in 2017. It is our plan to bring on board the 9th state (Bayelsa) in the third phase due to commence in 2019.
The project is focusing on three of the five Amplify Change thematic areas namely: Gender-Based Violence, Access to Comprehensive Reproductive Health Services and Sexual Health of Young People and Girls. The Objectives of the Network Grant are to build a movement to end Gender Based Violence (GBV) and promote SRHR, as well as to create an enabling environment for marginalised groups to access quality reproductive health information and services. It also aims to increase young people’s awareness on GBV and SRHR through opening greater space for discussion of often silenced issues of sexuality and reproduction and to build capacity of CSOs to develop skills to advance the SRHR agenda.
Problems the Network Grant seeks to address:
- Violence against women and girls.
- Longstanding social and cultural norms that reinforce acceptability of GBV in the society.
- Rape including marital rape, which creates a risk of trauma and could lead to unwanted pregnancy and/or HIV/AIDS.
- Limited capacity of women and girls to negotiate the terms and conditions of sex.
- High maternal and child mortality and morbidity ratios resulting from some of these factors.
- Harmful practices such as FGM, early/child marriage, which may have severe and debilitating SRHR consequences.
- Social norms, religion and tradition, which exclude young people from access to reproductive health information and services.
- High rate of ignorance on SRHR – the general belief that exposing young girls to sexuality education encourages them to engage in sexual relations early in life.
- Unwanted pregnancies resulting to risky and unsafe abortions.
- Limited capacity of NGOs in SRHRs.
- Culture of silence on GBV and SRHR.
Four (4) Key Areas for Action of the AmplifyChange Network Grant
- Capacity Building: It provides capacity building supportin technical and organisational areas to civil society organisations and groups – to increase their knowledge of GBV and SRHR and enhance their advocacy skills to hold government accountable on their commitments to gender equality, SRHR, social inclusion and freedom from violence. This includes support to recipients of Amplify Change Strengthening and Opportunity grants
- Evidence Gathering: This involves use of hotline, social media platforms and field work to gather or build evidence for advocacy, policy and accountability in SRHR, including collecting and analysing data and information; and conducting research, and development of tools and methods. It also includes mapping and creating awareness of existing laws on GBV and Reproductive health and Rights.
- Communications: This is about enhancing communicationto strengthen advocacy including the creation of or support to existing communication platforms which are open to CSOs and decision makers for the promotion of SRHR and condemnation of GBV. It is a platform of several multichannel communication components including radio and television dramas in the mass media. Communication activities include On line Essay Competition, Social Media Conference, IEC Materials (T-Shirts, Newsletter), Airing of radio jingles and TV Drama on SRHR and GBV.
- Networking: It is about strengthening coalitions like CENGOS and engaging new actorsin the field of SRHR to generate and share knowledge, through convening regional meetings, lesson learning sessions and fostering communities of practice and networking. It provides a platform for members to exchange ideas, information and personal experiences on SRHR and GBV in a way that builds understanding and insight.
The intervention activities adopted by the project to realise its objectives include training of key stakeholders and project delivery partners; research on access to information and services; advocacy engagement for transformation of social norms; formal and informal meeting; legal assistance; media events; publication; essay competition and sexuality education sessions in schools among others
The second edition of the essay competition for secondary schools was done in two stages: Stage One was an on-line essay competition mandating students to discuss the topic “Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights are Human Rights” as it related to their immediate environment.Over 170 essay entries received in the competition bordered on horrific stories of rape, violence against women (VAW), sexual abuse, etc., as perpetrated by close relatives, including parents. This, by itself, indicates that essay writing provides opportunity for young people to express themselves and vent out their frustrations and anger against SRHR violations and SGBV.
Stage Two, which was also the grand finale of the competition was ‘on the sport pen-to-paper writing’ by the ten students with the best written essays selected from the project/participating states. The emerging winners were rewarded accordingly.
The general performance of the competition showed clearly that the essay competition encourages participants (young people) to self-engage and self-educate in the process of competition. The openness to discuss some related SRHR and GBV violations within their environment is phenomenal in the sense that, as young people and most vulnerable, they understand and champion the process of opening up to these discussions.
WINNER of the Essay Competition (Second Edition), Nnalue Veronica Mmesoma of St. John of God Secondary School Awka, Anambra State Receiving the first prize award
The peer education training (PET) component of the project was designed for information and knowledge sharing among young people in secondary schools. The programme is aimed at influencing young people’s knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour through structured educational sessions in the context of promotion of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and prevention of gender-based violence (GBV). The PET programme trained eighty (80) facilitators and trainers of peer educators (school teachers and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members) in selected 40 secondary school, 5 schools per state in the eight (8) project states. Over 4,000 students have so far been reached with information on SRHR and GBV through the PET programme. It is expected that some of the trainee students will emerge as peer educators who will not only facilitate sexuality education sessions with their peers, but also train selected students in the lower class as peer educators to guarantee sustainability and wider reach.
- The emergence of a Network of Traditional Rulers and other non-traditional allies like religious leaders as Champions against SGBV and harmful traditional practices who are making public statements against SGBV through radio programme & TV show, rally, communique, memorandum and establishment of mediation centres on SGBV
- Installation of women into traditional ruling council and decision-making organ by the traditional institutions
- Religious leader inspired by the project to author a book on Sexual and Reproductive Health for young people
- Increased visibility and public consciousness of CENGOS and its advocacy activities leading to interest for partnership and collaboration from other partners
- Establishment of peer education club on SRHR & GBV and introduction of sexuality education session in 40 secondary schools;
- Acceptability of the peer education programme on sexuality leading to demand for extension to other schools and communities;
- Increased reported cases of violation by survivors of SGBV as a result of knowledge, courage and confidence gained to speak out and seek redress
- Review of legal instrument: community inspired to review byelaw to address sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the community
- The division along cultural and religious lines affects decisions on issues around SRHR and GBV
- Resistance to change especially by those who are benefiting from the system
- Stubborn mindset to culture/tradition: Some traditional rulers would not want certain cultural practices changed under their reign
- Poor access and/or unavailability of information vis-à-vis poor record keeping among government officials and service providers
- Limited capacity of some coalition members to deliver and other inherent challenges in coalitions/associations like inadequate commitment, mistrust, suspicion, etc
- Overwhelming reported cases of SGBV seeking attention, justice, redress
- Empower the Network of Traditional Rulers to champion the advocacy for the abolition of harmful and obnoxious customs and traditions.
- Leveraging on the influence of the members of the Network of traditional rulers in increasing its membership and gaining the support of government
- Constant engagement and creating activities for the traditional rulers and other allies to sustain and expand the movement
- Synergising with service providers across the project locations and beyond to assist in handling the overwhelming influx of cases of SGBV