By Adenike Fagbemi
Public and private sector, Civil Society Organisations as well as Community Based organisations have been urged to promote safe spaces that will address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Sexual Violence as it affects young people in Nigeria.
This call was made yesterday Monday August 13th, 2018 by the Director of Gender & Development Programs HACEY Health Initiative, Ms Rhoda Robinson during a gathering of 20 youth experts at the organisation’s head office in Lagos to discuss and recommend solutions on how to create safe spaces to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Sexual Violence which is in line with this year’s International Youth Day.
During her welcome address and presentation, Robinson described Safe Space as where intended beneficiaries feel comfortable and enjoy the freedom to express themselves without the fear of judgment or harm. “There, you get support rather than ridicule; you find solace, share information with like minds and build a social space without fear or repercussion. For us at HACEY, we have programs in place to ensure Safe Space and these cut across our offline and Online platforms such as the Tombey, Salvus as well as our Back On Track projects,” Robinson noted.
The key points discussed at the gathering were; the role of the private sector and civil society organisations in creating safe spaces that address SRHR and sexual violence in Nigeria and how safe spaces can change social norms and cultural values that propagate sexual violence as well as how safe spaces can sustainably provide access to SRHR information and services for young people.
Robinson explained that ‘Safe space’ is a concept and everyone needs to understand the key components that makes the concept effective.
“One needs to understand the physical and psychological safety, clear and consistent structure and appropriate supervision, supportive relationships, opportunities to integrate, positive social norms, opportunities for skills building, anonymity, positive behavior reinforcement processes, ethical practices amongst others,” Robinson said.
Also speaking and moderating sessions during the gathering was HACEY Health Initiative Safe Space Program Lead, Mary Adeoye.
Adeoye explained that safe spaces are important for young people because it helps them ask questions, share experiences and learn in a non-judgmental youth-friendly environment.
“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.
Recommendations made during the discussions were that; it is high importance that young people have access to Sexual reproductive Health information as this would go a long way in reducing their exuberance as well as burden. Moreso that Safe Space as an advocacy should not be restricted to just a particular sector since youths in these sectors need to be in the right frame of mind to discharge their duties, more people as well as organisations need to be empowered and enlightened in order to create their Safe Spaces too all sector.
“Safe space concept should be infused into clubs in Secondary School, hence, the students have different avenues to speak and be listened to. This gives them a sense of choice of who to talk to and when to talk to such individual. It also gives ones the opportunity to expand the concept of the safe space,” Robinson added.
Organisations that were duly represented at the event include; JCI Nigeria, AISEC Nigeria, Project Enable Africa, FoodClique Support initiative, Youth Empowerment Initiative, International Youth Alliance on Family Planning, NixxHash Communications amongst others.
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.