Mental health: Don't take communication with youths for granted ― WAITT

By  Gabriel Olawale

Worried by increased cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence n Nigeria, the Centre for Women’s Health and Information, CEWHIN, in partnership with the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency, DSVA, has trained school-based counsellors and dedicated teachers in Lagos.

 Speaking during a two-day training workshop supported by Action Aid in the implementation of the Women’s Voice and Leadership – Nigeria Project with funding from Global Affairs Canada (GAC), for strengthening access to psychosocial support for survivors of/persons vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, Programme Officer for CEWHIN, Judith Agada said that issues of sexual and gender-based violence affects children as some of them are vulnerable to rape, child marriage, female genital mutilation and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder arising from domestic violence in their homes.

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 “The most important thing in addressing these challenges is to create awareness, promote access to justice and psychological first aid. In doing this, CEWHIN realised that school-based counsellors and teachers have a vital role to play as students spend much time with them in schools.

  “I’m also appealing to parents and teachers to be advocates of gender equality.  Charity they say begins at home.

 Corroborating her views, Clinical Psychologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Olumide Okeowo said that the role of psychological first aid in the management of extremely distressing events cannot be overemphasised.

 “Psychological first aid is a supportive response to a fellow human being who is suffering and who may need support. It helps people to feel safe, connected to others, be calm and hopeful. It also involves helping people connect to information, services, and social support while protecting them from further harm.”

On her part, Coordinator, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi said that the law is very clear on sexual related issues, “137- Defilement states that any person who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a child is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for life.”

 “Any person who attempts to commit the offense of rape or sexual assaults by penetration is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years while any person who sexually touches another person without his consent is guilty of a felony and liable to imprisonment for three years.

 “Any person who sexually harasses another is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years while any person who causes another to engage in a sexual activity without that other person’s consent is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for five years.”

 Titilola hinted that the Mandated Reporter policy makes it compulsory for all State School Administrators, Counsellors, Teachers, Social Welfare Officers, and any other official of the State Government having any dealings with children to report any suspected or actual child abuse or neglect to the State.

 “Lagos State Government requires Mandated Reporters to report any suspected incident of child abuse, molestation or neglect to the office of the  Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice. Failure to report suspected abuse or neglect is subject to disciplinary action which may also be subject to both civil and criminal liability.

 “In a civil action, you would be held liable for all the damages that any person suffers due to your failure to file such report. In a criminal activity, you may be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years.”

 One of the participants, Ms. Omotuyole Grace appreciates Centre for Women’s Health and Information, CEWHIN, and the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency for putting the program together, says the training will enable them to respond appropriately.

 “I’m going to do step down training of all what I have learnt from this workshop when I get back to school because the responsibility is not only on me as counsellor but all of us as teachers and parents need to play our part.”

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