The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has advocated the institutionalization and domestication of Gender-Based Violence protocols across Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.
The UNESCO’s regional advisor for higher education and ICT, Salifou Abdoulaye, made the plea while speaking at the launch of the ‘Gender Mainstreaming Training Manual for Higher Institutions’ in Nigeria on Tuesday.
He said Nigeria ranks 118 out of 134 countries in the gender equality index globally.
Mr. Abdoulaye said the international agency proposes for the production of the manual in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) format for wide dissemination within and outside Nigeria.
”By doing so, we will be able to disseminate the document widely within and across national frontiers,” he said.
He added that the European Union-sponsored manual is aimed at eliminating sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices and also enhancing sexual and reproductive health rights in the nation’s higher institutions.
The manual, he noted, is a collaborative effort between the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH), Spotlight Initiative, and UNESCO.
Mr. Abdoulaye noted that the inadequate inclusiveness of women and girls’ perspectives in policy-making decisions, resource allocation, and implementation in the economy and social sector continues to challenge the advancement of gender equality in Nigeria.
He explained that the worrisome issue of sexual harassment and sex-for-marks syndrome in higher institutions has drawn the attention of education policymakers.
“To this effect, this becomes very relevant, especially taking into account the quality of this manual on critical issues such as gender-based violence and sexual harassment in higher education injections and the need to sensitize millions of students and academics,” he said.
He appealed to the Nigerian Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission to take leadership and support the institutionalization and domestication of the manual and make it available to universities.
In her remarks, ISMPH’s executive director, Moji Makanjuola, said the manual aims to drive conversations on the issue of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Nigeria tertiary institutions.
Ms. Makanjuola said the world is daily inundated with news of GBV against women, girls, and other persons.
She said; “Globally, it is estimated that 1 in 3 women experience either physical or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
“In Nigeria, these figures are mirrored with 30 percent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49.”
She also said the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions had a profound impact on the welfare of women and girls in Nigeria.
“While the full extent of the damage done has not been fully ascertained, statistics show that the lockdown increased Gender-Based Violence cases,” she said.
She reiterated that the manual will be a potent tool in re-orienting Nigeria’s young generation.
She urged the government and civil society organizations to rise to the occasion “and create innovative responses which seek to change the mindset that made violence against women so prevalent in Nigeria.”
“One way we can collectively achieve this is by creating or engaging existing platforms to normalize conversations about the rights, welfare, and body autonomy of women,” she said.
Meanwhile, speaking at the launch, a professor from the University of Abuja, Mabel Evwierhoma, said the manual is a welcome development as it would increase the tempo and add value to the efforts to reduce.
She said the newly launched manual will further educate students on what to do to protect themselves in the face of violence.