…as FG, stakeholders seek funding for referral centres, establishment of more SARCs
THE European Union (EU) disclosed that it had expended over a billion naira in the establishment of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) across the country in the last five years in a bid to cub Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
This is even as the trading bloc called on the Federal and state governments to fund the 41 existing referral centres across.the country.
The Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Amb. Samuela Isopi, disclosed this in Abuja on Wednesday, at the 9th Network Conference of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against SGBV 2023. Isopi stated that over 35,000 survivors have so far benefitted from the services of the centres.
Themed: ‘Funding and Sustainability of Sexual Assault Referral Centres’, the event was organised by the European Union-funded Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC Phase II) Programme of International Initiative for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).
According to Isopi, the funding will go a long way to strengthen the centres to deliver on their mandate of providing free medical, counseling and support services to survivors of sexual violence.
While assuring that the EU is committed to ensuring that voices of victims are heard, she called for the establishment of specialised courts for sexual and gender-based violence cases.
“In Nigeria, the European Union has contributed over a billion naira in support of SARCs across the country and we will continue to advocate for more centres and for appropriate funding allocations at federal and state level to make them operational and sustainable.
“Addressing violence against women and girls requires a comprehensive and collective approach. We will continue to collaborate with key stakeholders in supporting legislative instruments”, she said.
The Project Manager, Access to Justice and Co-ordinator, Network of Sexual Assault Referral Centres, RoLAC II of International IDEA, Ms. Oluwatoyosi Giwa, said the SARCs were expected to provide free medical assistance, forensic medical examination, counseling and justice support services to survivors of the act.
Giwa stressed that the objective of the conference is to examine governance issues that continue to limit the impact and sustainability of SARCs in Nigeria and establish clarity on where and how to focus state-level advocacy for funding existing SARCs by state governments.
She said: “We still have a situation where state governments as well as the Federal Government is still not funding largely, SGBV response in Nigeria. And what I mean is that when it comes to emergency rescue, response, shelter services, medical, trauma counseling we still have that significant gap where the state government, federal government is still not putting the money where the legislation is. So, all of the different mechanisms that are supposed to respond are there, they are just not properly or adequately funded”.
On his part, the Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, represented by Ms. Yewande Gbola-Awopetu called for multi-sectoral support from relevant stakeholders for smooth operation of the centres and support from the states through budgetary allocations and human resources services.
Fagbemi reiterated the need for funding for continuity of the SARCs describing it as a key factor in the establishment and maintenance of access to justice for victims/survivors.
He said: “The sustainability and existence of SARCs is Justice for victims/ survivors of gender-based violence and If our ultimate goal is getting justice for victims of SGBV then we must collaborate and join our collective power to support the active existence of this centres and this we solicit from stakeholders and development partners.
“SARCs therefore needs multi-sectoral support from relevant stakeholders for its smooth operation, it needs support from the State through Budgetary allocations and Human Resources Services such as making available government health workers, social workers, State counsels and other public servants needed by this Centres. It also needs the support of Partners such as the CSOs, NGOs, and Private citizens. This is a collective support service that we must all be interested in and actively participate. “
Also, the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, tasked states to allocate funds to the Centers in their respective 2024 budgets.
Represented by the Assistant Director, Gender Affairs, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Mr. Iheanyichi Amanambu, the Minister said: “As impressive as the efforts of the Federal Government are, the common challenge faced by these centers according to a recent survey is the weak commitment by sub – national governments to strengthen the multi-sectoral and inter-agency collaboration mechanisms that will sustain the delivery of SARCs services to the victims. The implication is that the Centers lack the requisite funds needed to ensure optimal services delivery.
“To this end, I enjoin all the State Ministries of Women Affairs in States where these SARCs Centers are located to as a matter of urgency and in the spirit of gender responsive budgeting specifically allocate funds to these Centers during the 2024 Budget year”.
The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is an intergovernmental organization established in 1995, with 34 Member States. RoLAC II, a $30 million 5-year Programme (2023-2027) funded by the European Union, aims to contribute to the consolidation of Rule of Law and Good Governance reforms in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Building on the success of RoLAC Phase I (2017 – 2022), funded by the European Union, the Programme significantly enhanced good governance in Nigeria. It played a pivotal role in strengthening the rule of law and curbing corruption by supporting reform initiatives across federal and state institutions, anti-corruption agencies, civil society, citizens, and the media.
-Nov. 30, 2023 @ 14:57 GMT |Tags: Amb. Samuela Isopi ECOWAS European Union Lateef Fagbemi Mr. Iheanyichi Amanambu Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye