Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, founder of Stand to End Rape (STER) is the regional winner of the 2019 Commonwealth Youth Award for Africa and Europe. Her organization, which operates in Nigeria creates awareness about sexual violence against women and girls and supports victims of rape.STER also trains healthcare providers on sexual violence response mechanisms, donates HIV test kits to community health care centres and has developed an app for victims and map and contact police stations and healthcare centres.
The organization has reached over 200,000 people and provided pro bono medical, legal, mental health, educational and empowerment services to thousands of victims.Daniel Olajuyigbe, a 17 year old correspondent from Ekiti State, Nigeria, has been interviewing Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi about her initiative.
How does a victim of rape reach out to your organisation?
Well, we have helpline phone numbers available on our website for distress calls and reports and we also encourage people to contact us through our e-mail and social media handles. Whenever a victim contacts us on a rape incident, the first thing we do is to help find the nearest health care centre to the victim and put him/her through in getting services from the centre before we now begin to go about legal actions and our therapy and counseling sessions.
Do victims pay to get your help and secure health services?
No they don’t. We offer totally free services and ensure that we take full responsibility for their health care bills. We even distribute HIV test kits for free to selected public health care centres in 5 local government areas in a state.
What can you tell us about your application for victims to map and contact police stations and healthcare centres?
We partnered with Google Maps to map out hospitals, police stations and family healthcare centres in Lagos state so that when survivors are in a dire situation they can easily just go on Google Maps and find the closest hospital to them in that state and go to receive aid and treatment, because most times the survivors don’t know where to go to. With our Google Maps partnership, we’re expanding now to other parts of the country to map every family health care centre in every single community. We are also involved in an app linking sexual violence survivors on campus so that they can interact with one another and help each other.
How do you carry out your outreach and sensitization to the general public, especially for those in rural areas with limited access to mobile phones and the internet?
Well, we do a lot of community outreach because we understand the digital divide so we are reaching out to those who have access to smartphones and the internet, and we’re also providing services to those who are in the rural areas by going to different communities.We have volunteers across Nigeria who go into schools and communities, teaching the members on how to prevent rape, what to do if they get raped and how we can support them. So we are not just focusing on the online target audience, we also have a large number of people who we serve physically since we know the limitations of online action.
When the word ‘rape’ comes up, it is usually assumed that a female has been violated but today males are also raped. How do you handle this?
Rape of males is not a new phenomenon, it is something that has always been in our society but they are groomed to keep quiet and act tough and they just end up with aggressive emotions. A lot of the affected males think that the ability to hold in their pain is what makes them men and so they keep quiet about it because they feel it would damage their their egos. We at STER reach out to both sexes and handle both forms of cases to our very best. We also have men as part of our organization to support the males who have endured sexual violence, we understand the fact that it occurs and so we work hard to handle it in the best ways we can.
Your organization is a very unique one. What have been some of your major achievements over the years? Well one of our greatest achievements is not just creating an awareness on rape but is actually building the confidence of the young people in Nigeria to take action on rape. When it just started it was only one person involved which was me but over the years across Nigeria we hear different people saying that they want to get involved and advocate for change on sexual violence in the society, and that for us is the greatest achievement so far. We are excited to help survivors and also that many more people in the world have now realized that rape is not something you just keep quiet on but they are now engaged in breaking the silence.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I don’t think there is anything that has been a greater gift to me than hearing a survivor who was afraid, shattered and downcast due to the impact of sexual violence now begin to feel joyful and at ease because of the intervention of our organization. Just to put a smile on someone’s face and prevent people from getting violated as well as seeing a new generation of men who are well aware of how their actions influence the society and their roles on gender inequality gives me the joy that my work is felt and through that I get the motivation to keep aiming for greater heights.
The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work highlights the contributions of young people who are making a difference in their communities and celebrates their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Photo credit: Stand to End Rape Initiative AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Demola Ajayi
About me: My name is Daniel Olajuyigbe, and I am a first year student of Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria studying Electrical and Electronics Engineering. I love writing articles and making public speech. I aspire to become a high flyer in my field and leader in the future having developed leadership skills over the years. My dream is to become not just an Engineer but also an influential person in the world who causes changes for a fairer future.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/
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