…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 to rape victims in Nigeria.
Receiving the Commonwealth Point of Light Award from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England, on Tuesday, for her volunteer work, she said the story of a teenage rape victim motivated her to float “The Mirabel Centre” to give a new lease of life to rape victims in the country.
The wife of the Vanguard Editor said she founded the first sexual assault referral centre in 2013 and that since then, she has helped over 3, 100 victims of rape.
According to her, “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 was suppose to be protecting her 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, in 2013, it was the British Council, through its Justice for all Programme, that 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 parts of Lagos. But, as we all know, Mirabel centre still remains 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.”
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, said Mrs. Eze-Anaba was awarded because of her support for victims of rape and sexual assault.
He said the award was coming ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London on the 19-20th of April, 2018.
According to him, “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 contributions to tackling some of the greatest social challenges of our time.” he noted.