FROM 25th to 27th September 2023, a three-day workshop on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and mental health was held at Rockview Royale Hotel, Wuse 2, Abuja.
The workshop, which was organised by a coalition of five organisations (Mental Health Foundation, Peace and Trauma Care Centre Initiative, Psychological and Emotional Wellbeing, El-Roi University London, and NACTAL) and funded by USAID and its partner Palladium, brought together over 30 participants drawn from state and non-state actors and representing social workers, healthcare staff, legal aid lawyers, counsellors, community organisers, gatekeepers, traditional rulers and media practitioners.
The workshop aimed to raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of SGBV and Child, Early, and Forced Marriage (CEFM) in Nigeria, and to develop strategies for preventing and responding to these issues. Participants shared their experiences and learned about trauma, suicide, and mental health issues, as well as strategies for promoting mental health and recovery.
According to the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), 33% of women aged 15-49 in Nigeria have experienced physical or sexual violence, while 24% have experienced only physical violence, 2% have experienced only sexual violence, and 7% have experienced both physical and sexual violence. The prevalence of SGBV is dynamic, with more than half (58%) of girls aged 15-25 in Nigeria reporting that they have been harassed or abused online, according to a Plan International Survey conducted in 2020.
The workshop recommended several strategies for preventing and responding to SGBV and CEFM in Nigeria. These include establishing guidelines for responsible reporting on SGBV with footnotes and helpline information on all SGBV-related news content, pseudonyms to protect the identity of survivors based on cases, and content warnings. Participants also recommended developing comprehensive arrangements in shelters that provide holistic treatment and reintegration for victims, including mental health management.
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In addition, the workshop emphasized the importance of engaging in sensitization and education on SGBV and mental health issues in secondary schools and tertiary institutions and providing linkage to available resources, support networks, and self-care strategies for mental health promotion and recovery. Participants also recommended developing strategies and plans for a more effective SGBV/CEFM and Mental health, Trauma, and Suicide response in target states.
The workshop was delivered using a variety of methodologies, including PowerPoint presentations, interactive sessions, reflections, and ice breakers, lived experiences rendition, practical exercises and therapeutic sessions, group works, questions and answer series.
According to Ms. Ene Ede, one of the organisers and facilitators of the program, trauma should no longer be an abstraction in dealing with SGBV issues but should be addressed with realistic solutions.