It’s time to put the ‘move’ in movement; assessing the Role of Nigeria’s Multi-Disciplinary Health Response in Identifying, Establishing & Delivering Interventions in Cases of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)
On Thursday December 10th the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) held its innovative #EndViolence Webinar. The well attended and highly discursive event was the culmination of the United Nations (UN) 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) which took place from November 25th to December 10th.
The Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s commitment to ending gender-based violence and harmful practices as per the SDG’s three zeroes, extends beyond childbearing women at health facilities, and daily transcends into teaching our Adolescent Skills and Drills PSHE curriculum in schools across Nigeria. Our commitment here is to teaching adolescents what is deemed a healthy relationship and how to spot and respond to abuse including child marriages in a safe and trusted authentic space. Our health workers also seek to provide adolescents with personal social and health education on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The webinar brought together healthcare practitioners, midwives, policymakers, WBFA staff and those in the field of broadcast media/journalism with the objective of introducing them to WBFA’s newly developed protocol for recognising, referring and aiding victims of violence against women and girls whilst also identifying areas of co-operation to combat the growing cases of GBV in Nigeria.
Speakers on the day parted with a multitude of knowledge, expertise and experiences which included the keynote address by the Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation HE Toyin Saraki, Dr Otun Adewale Olalekun, Abuja state team lead, WBFA, Dr Muna Abudullah, Health System Specialist at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Fati Abubakar a renowned photojournalist from Maiduguri, Borno State and Aisha Salaudeen, a multimedia journalist with CNN International.
Throughout all our work, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa promotes and achieves the WHO’s recommendations on how countries can improve quality of care in their health facilities and prevent maternal and newborn deaths, based on its standards for improving quality of maternal and newborn care in health facilities, and even before a woman with child arrives – as our accountability policy and targets – and we deliver this through our investment in community midwifery, localising care:
1) Pregnant women should receive the right care, at the right times
2) Newborns should receive essential care immediately after birth
3) Small and sick babies should be well cared for in a facility
4) All women and newborns must receive care that prevents hospital-acquired infections
5) Health facilities must have an appropriate physical environment
6) Communication with women and their families must be effective and respond to their needs
7) Women and newborns who need referrals can obtain them without delay
8) No woman should be subjected to harmful practices during labour, childbirth, and the early postnatal period
9) Health facilities need well-trained and motivated staff consistently available to provide care-
10) Every woman and newborn should have a complete, accurate, and standardized medical record.
Addressing the silent pandemic of violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the cardinal focal points of WBFA’s engagement and policy strategy. According to UN Women, one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner. Further studies estimate that in Africa, between 23 to 49% of pregnant women experience physical, sexual and emotional violence from an intimate partner during their pregnancy. There has been an increase in reports of gender based violence cases in all six geopolitical zones in Nigeria since the pandemic began but a lack of systematic data collection and a political/cultural system that favours the accused rather than the victim has meant that indices of violence against women continue to grow. This gave added importance to WBFA’s #EndViolence Webinar.
The theme of the webinar was ‘Assessing the role of the multidisciplinary team in recognising, reporting and ultimately, reprimanding perpetrators in cases of VAWG’. The speakers actively discussed and detailed their roles as stakeholders in providing intervention plans for survivors and victims. H.E Toyin Saraki in her keynote speech detailed the intervention programmes of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa via their Wellbeing Midwives who have been trained to spot the early warning signs of a GBV victim, whilst the foundations Mamacare classes have remained a point of communication, community and safety for women throughout their pregnancy.
Dr Abudullah described the tireless work of the UNFPA’s advocacy efforts in Africa in the areas of data gathering and analysis, increased training of healthcare workers to tackle the rising cases of GBV and by building a referral pathway system for the safe reporting of GBV victims. Photojournalist Fati Abubakar gave a candid insight into her work which has seen her go into the epicentre of the Boko Haram scourge & detail through a visual medium the tragedy taking place in north east Nigeria. She emphasised the importance of visualisation which gives strength to the story of the victim.
Journalist Aisha Salaudeen, helped participants to understand the variety of ways to help illuminate the story of GBV cases, emphasising that news agencies must ensure not only the safety of the victim when describing their travails but also to adhere to a code of conduct to protect the dignity of survivors of GBV whilst also telling their story with empathy. Dr Otun Olalekun provided a thorough case study of the ongoing advocacy projects and Initiatives the WBFA are currently conducting in the fight against GBV. This includes the creation of the community based adolescent program which helps teach young girls about GBV and how they can protect themselves and the continuation of the far reaching MamaCare program which has educated and engaged midwives and health workers in over 40 different facilities throughout Nigeria in the areas of S/GBV.
The webinar provided a discursive platform for a plethora of professionals, advocates, health workers and policy makers to engage in an issue of great importance. It was resolved that collective efforts will be undertaken to engage key stakeholders in tackling S/GBV whilst focusing on enhancing frontline efforts, aiding security and shadowing facilitation and strengthening abuse referral processes.
When I launched the Wellbeing Foundation Africa Global Foundation For Elimination of Domestic Violence by way of the Peace One Day collaboration back in 2012, I was on a trajectory towards what is today, the actualisation of my commitment to the #ICPD25 three zeros; zero unmet need for contraception; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.
Since then, my commitment to #endingviolence has remained a daily priority, and is personified through my Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s community midwives. The continuum of care offered by way of the #Mamacare360 maternity programs, and every educator and practitioner’s efforts to remain working in tandem with the next generation of young men and women and their families through PSHE to tackle and contribute to the lessening of these dire figures remains both critical and crucial.
As we unite to fund, respond, prevent and collect the key evidence and expertise to end this ongoing silent pandemic, I remain resolute in advocacy and actions towards recognising and championing human rights, safety, protection and justice to #endVAWG.