PROJECT S.H.A.R.P.4.U is a sexual harassment and rape prevention program for universities and tertiary institutions recently launched at the orientation program of the Lagos State University (LASU), on the 17th of Feb 2016, in partnership with the Lagos State Government’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team. The objective of PROJECT S.H.A.R.P4.U, which comes against the backdrop of a rape epidemic in Nigeria, is to raise awareness, foster prevention, counsel victims and work with relevant stakeholders to create safe spaces for reporting and deterrence.
The event which had over 5,000 students in attendance, most of them eager freshers, began with an inspirational opening speech by the Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Olanrewaju Adigun Fagbohun.
Speaking at the event was Mrs. Osasu Paul-Azino, co-ordinator of PBO Foundation, an alumnus of LASU, highlighted the long term impact of rape on young women and how rampant and under-reported rape cases are in universities. According to Mrs. Paul-Azino it is estimated that one in every five female students are raped, most of them in their first year. Out of a sample of 295 female students from Ebonyi State University Abakaliki in Southeast Nigeria, 36.7% had experienced sexual harassment/victimization at least once on campus. Of this, 32.4% had been raped. “PROJECT S.H.A.R.P4U,” she said, “will also focus on training first-year female undergraduates on how to avoid rape, a measure that has proven effective in substantially lowering the risk of being sexually assaulted.”
Mrs Ibiduni Alakija Ladapo, Deputy Director, and member of the Ministry of Justice Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team(DSVRT), also spoke at the event on sexual assault prevention in higher institutions. According to a survey by the ministry, 80% of men cannot control themselves, 41% said that it is as a result of alcohol and drugs, another percentage said that it is because of the way ladies dress, wearing little or nothing. None of this provides a tenable excuse for rape, Mrs. Ladapo said.
Mrs. Ladapo also mentioned the role of the Lagos state domestic violence team in advocacy, policy formation and quick dispensation of justice. She advised the students to stay alert at all times, avoid secluded places, walk in groups at night and take advantage counsellors, lecturers etc, when being pressured by anybody, even a lecturer.
She concluded by telling the students what to do in the case of an abuse: to look for a safe place, go to the nearest police station to report the case, get medical attention, call a friend or family member, and seek counselling. In cases where they are unable to do any of these, they can simply dial 112, the Lagos state emergency line and they would have someone to talk to them instructing them on the steps to take.
The event ended with a brief question and answer session, and the handing out of rape prevention materials and souvenirs by the Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation team. PROJECT S.H.A.R.P4U has been scheduled to move across university campuses in Nigeria.