…Receives Commonwealth Award
By Victoria Ojeme
For 15 years, Itoro Eze Anaba, wife of the editor of Vanguard, Mr. Eze Anaba , has provided succor and hope for rape victims in Nigeria.
Receiving the Commonwealth Point of Light Award from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England, for her volunteer work, Tuesday, she said that the story of teenage rape victim, motivated her to start open The Mirabel Centre to give a new lease of life for rape victims in the country.
According to her, she founded the first sexual assault referral centre in 2013 and since then has helped 3, 100 victims of rape.
Her words, “The idea to set up such a centre came up as a result of a meeting with a young girl on the street of Lagos who told me a story of how she had been raped severally over the years by her father and did not have anywhere to report to and when she reported to her pastor, her pastor did not believe her and so she had to return back home and stayed with her father who is suppose to be protecting her and loving her as well but continued to assault her.
“That encounter with that young girl changed my life. It was in 2013 that I finally got funds to set up the centre, from 2003 to 2013 that I met this young girl, I did everything I could to set up the centre- a place for survivals of rape.
“It wasn’t an easy journey because there was no such place in Nigeria. It was difficult for people to invest their money in the project, and I keep on hearing, why don’t you set up a place for cancer or HIV.
“Coincidentally 2013, it was British Council through its justice for all programme eventually provided funding for us to establish the Mirabel centre.
“But a lot has happen since the establishment of Mirabel centre, greater awareness, people now talk about it, because when we started, the average number was between twenty to twenty five but now we have the average of eighty to ninety, in the month of November last year, we had an average of one hundred and thirteen and we also have some other centers set up in some part of Lagos but as we all know, Mirabel centre still reminds the highest.
“Since the establishment in 2013, we have provided over 3000 clients and young men, because people think that rape is all about women, so far we have treated about 70 young men who were raped by men”
According to the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, who handed the award to Mrs. Eze-Anaba, in Abuja, on behalf of the Queen of England, she was the award was in honour of her support for victims of rape and sexual assault.
He said that the award was coming ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London on 19-20 April.
“Her Majesty The Queen – as Head of the Commonwealth – is thanking inspirational volunteers across the 52 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond.
“ The Heads of Government meeting will celebrate inspirational acts of volunteering across the Commonwealth and help inspire others to make their own contribution to tackling some of the greatest social challenges of our time.”