By Emmanuel Afonne
Plans have been concluded for the launch of a sexual violence reporting app for use in various tertiary institutions in the country.
Ms Omowumi Ogunrotimi, Executive Director and Founder, Gender Mobile Initiative (GMI), an NGO in forefront of campaign against sexual violence, disclosed this in Abuja on Monday while signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kogi State University.
Ogunrotimi said when in use, the app popularly known as “Campus Pal”, would help individuals and tertiary institutions report cases of sexual harassment with efficient response and management.
She said the app developed with the support of Ford Foundation, an international NGO, was built with special focus on students, lectures, non-academic staff and people coming to the environment of learning.
“The Gender Mobile app is a technology driven platform that will help institutions of learning to report cases anonymously and also with their identity being there; it is a matter of option.
“Institutions will be able to track cases even as a victim making the report. It will also help us to generate data because a lot of times we don’t have data and we don’t know the existing gaps in the institutions of learning.
“But by having a data, one will also understand at what level people are more vulnerable to sexual harassment; is it more prevalent among student and student or student and faculty?
“So, this mobile app will help in real time reporting and real time response to cases of sexual and gender based violence in an environment of learning.
“We also created a platform for students to have access to informational materials because a lot of schools have sexual harassment policy but students don’t even know they have. So this mobile app will help students to access all of these policies that exist on campus.
“This app also helps new students to access on boarding information. So, as new students, the app has an ‘ask me function’ in case one need to go to clinic or a particular faculty to do course registration,” Ogunrotimi said.
According to her, the mobile app will also help a new student in finding accommodation without necessarily going through a middle-man, or ask questions that make them vulnerable in the hands of people already on campus.
She explained that over 100 tertiary institutions in the southern and northern part of the country were partnering with them on the app to ensure that sexual violence was eradicated in institutions of learning.
“We are also working in secondary schools because sexual harassment is a big thing in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.
“At the moment we are running an intervention in secondary schools in rural communities across Nigeria where we are also creating platforms for students to reports cases and mobilise their communities for development efforts.
“This is to ensure that people can begin to respond and prevent sexual harassment and other patterns of sexual based violence in their communities.
“So, it is one step at a time. We are non-profit organisation and we have limited resources and can’t solve all the problems at the same time, but I think we are taking the right steps in the right direction,” Ogunrotimi added.
Also speaking, Ms Emalohi Iruobe, Founder, Tribe XX Lab, an organisation partnering with Gender Mobile on capacity building on campus, said reporting sexual harassment case anonymously would encourage more people to speak-up because of how the society is.
Iruobe noted that trust was a key factor while reporting a case of sexual harassment.
“In capacity building, we emphasise on trust building between the students and those entrusted in their care,” she said.
Dean, Student Affairs, Kogi State University, Prof. Monday Odin who signed the MoU on behalf of the university said management would go any length to expose randy lectures and students who might want to raise false alarm.
He said that the university had before now adopted different methods in settling cases of sexual based violence, especially through sanctions.
Odin added: “I am answerable to the students and the university authorities. Before now, we set up a committee to establish if a case is true or not, or where the accused or otherwise is raising a false alarm.
“The students’ handbook is there to also serve as our guide. We also look at the scripts of the students and at times the scripts will show that the matter has nothing to do with sexual harassment.
“If you are an exam officer (that is any person up to senior lecturer), and you are found guilty in sexual related case, then you are sacked.
“At that senior lecturer level, you are playing with your career with any wrong action you take and that is why we are trying to block this idea of junior lecturers being exam officers,” Odin said.
He urged students to always get their evidence ready whenever they make allegations of sexual harassment against lecturers in other to avoid being sanctioned for raising false alarm.
Odin further called for greater collaboration to ensure that sexual harassment which had degraded the standard of education in tertiary institutions was stopped completely. (NAN)