BY DEBORAH UZOMA
University of Nigeria, Nsukka on Thursday 18th November launched a safeguarding project and whistle blowing portal for reporting incident of sexual harassment.
The event which took place at Princess Alexandria Auditorium under the auspices of Gender and Development Policy Centre (GEN-CENT) of the University of Nigeria, was in collaboration with the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation (SMYF) Abuja.
In his opening remarks, the Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria Prof. Charles Igwe represented by the Dean, School of Post-Graduate Studies, Prof. Romanus Ezeokonkwo welcomed all who graced the occasion both virtual and physical . He thanked the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation for their partnership while eulogizing the Director Gender and Development Policy Centre, Prof. Anthonia Achike for her contributions. Prof. Igwe disclosed the various levels of sexual harassment in the society. He urged staff and students of the University to maximize their time frame, he frowned at indecent dressing and encouraged all participants to leverage on the lectures and documentaries in order to create safe spaces for gender. The VC revealed that the University community have Zero tolerance for sexual harassment and would ensure that perpetrators are duly punished and survivals get adequate justice.
In her welcome speech, the Director of Gender and Development Policy Centre, GEN-CENT University of Nigeria Nsukka, Prof. Mrs Anthonia Achike highlighted the misnomer in gender. She laid a detailed emphasis on Sexual Gender Base Violence and the unsafe places it has created in the society especially among women who she avers as more susceptible to Sexual harassment.
The Director recalled the journey of the University and the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation from May 2020; the challenges encountered in putting up the event while giving thanks to God that it finally came to pass. Prof. Achike stated that the whistle blowing portal is a smart way for reporting cases of sexual harassment anonymously. She encouraged all participants to leverage on the platform and report cases of sexual harassment without fear.
In the same vein, the Executive Programme officer of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation Mrs Kemi Okenyodo expressed her warmth feelings of being in the University of Nigeria , Nsukka. She avers that the safe spaces involve leadership and career development. Mrs. Kemi said that the issue is relevant in the heart and mind of the academic system ; and it is important to aid the young ones that are fast evolving. She disclosed the whistleblowing platform as www.genderjustice.org.ng and stated that the portal will empower, protect and bring to partnership, accountability to all members of the community and help maintain a safeguard boundaries.
Next in line were speeches received from representative of Ford Foundation, Women Aid Collective Organization, WACO, University’s Women Association and other organization present.
The highlight of the event featured Panel discussion which had the presence of the University’s Dean of Student Affairs ,Prof. Edwin Omeje , Director of Servicom, Prof. Jeff Njoku, some delegates from the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, Professors and student leaders discussed extensively on the issue of Sexual Harassment, its effect on the victims and survivals; and measures of reporting such incidents in the University’s environment.
Prof. Omeje advocated for openness to all sexually harassed, to report such incident immediately; and emphasized on the need for purity of the mind for both staff and students as one way of creating safe spaces for gender.
However, comments and questions were welcomed from participants both virtually and those physically present; theatrical display by Students of Theatre Arts and Film Studies and documentaries in respect to fight against Sexual Harassment in the society.