By Gabriel Olawale
HACEY Health Initiative has called on public and private sector including civil society organisations to promote safe spaces that address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Sexual Violence as it affects young people in Nigeria.
Speaking during the commemoration of this year’s International Youth Day, HACEY Health Initiative Safe Space Program Lead, Mary Adeoye said safe spaces are important for young people because it helps them ask questions, share experiences and learn in a non-judgmental youth-friendly environment.
“In our safe space for girls we have been able to discuss with young girls on challenges they face including leadership, sexual and reproductive health and hygiene. From our experience, we have found that safe spaces empower young people with information to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.”
Adeoye who spoke during a dialogue session on SRHR and Sexual Violence Safe Spaces for Youths which had in attendance 20 youth experts in Lagos, said that safe spaces can sustainably provide access to SRHR information and services for young people.
“A safe space is a formal or informal place where people feel physically and emotionally safe. The term safe can refer to the absence of trauma, excessive stress, violence, judgement, discrimination etc. It is a space where the intended beneficiaries feel comfortable and enjoy the freedom to express themselves without the fear of judgment or harm.
“Safe spaces can be physical spaces or virtual communities as long as participants are guaranteed an environment conducive for sharing and learning. Young people need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves.
“According to 2016 National Bureau of Population, one in every 5 Nigerian is between the ages of 15-24 while about 41 percent of Nigeria’s population are between ages 0-14 highlighting the importance of young people’s health and wellbeing to developmental future of Nigeria.
“Adequate and appropriate information on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) including HIV/AIDS, is fundamentally important to a healthy and productive life, especially for young people.
“Sexual violence is not only a violation of human rights, it also has ripple effects on the society, both in terms of psychosocial trauma and stigmatization of survivors, and development outcomes. The forms and persistence of Sexual Violence in Nigeria are inter-woven into social norms and power relations.
“The high prevalence of sexual violence among young people in Nigeria suggests that preventive and supportive measures must be put in place. Safe spaces help young people recognize red flag precursors of sexual violence and also provide support for young people who are survivors of sexual violence” she explained.
HACEY is a development organization focused on improving the health and productivity of under-served population in Africa. The organisation works with communities, government institutions, private sector companies, civil society groups and the media to design and implement sustainable interventions aimed at creating lasting impact for its beneficiaries.