By Gabriel Olawale

Action Health Incorporated, AHI, has empowered over 10,000 students from 60 schools in Lagos State on ways to prevent sexual and gender based violence in homes, communities, states, and Nigeria.

Speaking during the 27th edition of the annual Teenage Festival of Life, Co-founder and Director, AHI, Dr Uwemedimo Uko Esiet said that the initiative aimed to empower students, teachers, and parents to become champions against sexual and gender-based violence.

He hinted that AHI, in partnership with critical stakeholders, focused on improving the health and wellbeing of young people in Lagos State.

 “When the issue of sexual and gender-based violence is discussed, Lagos State is at the forefront of eradicating sexual and gender-based violence.”

“Right now, there is an ongoing campaign that we are undertaking in two education districts in Lagos State with a focus on eradicating school-based sexual and gender-based violence. Initially, we started with 30 schools, but due to the success recorded, it has increased to 60 schools in two education districts.

“AHI has been organising this annual event for secondary school students in Lagos State since 1993 to serve as a platform to showcase young people’s creative ability through various art forms such as music, drama, and poetry, as well as an enabling forum where young people and relevant stakeholders meet to both identify the plights of the young people.”

Esiet admonished parents to desist from placing high priority on male children, saying that every child is as important as other children, “no greater value for male or female, the value are the same.”

Speaking on the theme; ‘‘Ending Gender-Based Violence” Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Women Affairs, Mrs. Funmi Adegoke said that SGBV is a crime against humanity and Lagos state government has zero tolerance for it.

She disclosed that SGBV is known as the most prevalent human rights violation in the world, with devastating effects on the wellbeing, dignity, security, and autonomy of victims.

“According to a United Nations report, 2.2 million women in Lagos are estimated to be potential victims of intimate partner violence, and 60 percent of victims do not report those cases. This is indeed a very important and serious menace that we must deal with as a state and as a country.”

She disclosed that the state has put in place a series of programs and initiatives to end sexual and gender-based violence.

“In case of any sexual or gender-based violence, people can call 767 and they will get help. We must all take responsibility to bring about change and awareness about sexual and gender-based violence by also supporting each other.”

Convener, Child Online Safety Nigeria Initiative, Ms Olawale Odeneye says highlighting risks, consequences and boosting teenagers’ knowledge will ensure their online safety from preys and bandwagon effects.

Odeneye said that online risks to teenagers are significant and growing, as the risks vary by age, gender, and online exposure, adding exposure to sexual content was the largest online risk.

She noted that social media networking sites are alluring to children, and many easily sidestep age verification measures when signing up due to peer pressure.

According to her, reducing online risk depends on a child’s resilience, parental guidance and support, and digital skills (such as ability to manage privacy settings).

“The truth of the matter is that I don’t subscribe to teenagers being on any social media platform until they are 16.”

“That is because we believe that at the age of 16, they’re literally informed, they understand the dos and don’ts, and they can safely navigate themselves around at that age.”

“I tell parents, we need to come to a place where we become a trusted adult so that a child is able to come to with anything without fear of judgment,” she said.

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