Regina Otokpa, Abuja
Disturbed over the high cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and it’s negative and traumatic effect on survivors, Lawyers Alert has launched a USSD shortcode to enable more survivors, especially women, girls and the vulnerable in rural areas, have free and prompt access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services.
Lawyers Alert’s Director of Programmes, Roseline Oghenebrume, who spoke at the launch on Thursday in Abuja, noted that engagement with various vulnerable groups had revealed that survivors in rural areas found it difficult to seek external help due to either lack of internet connection, transportation fare, data or mobile airtime.
While noting that the pilot phase of the launch which captures five states; Bauchi, Osun, Enugu, Kano and Benue, enables anyone in danger of sexual and gender based abuse to type 700624# on both a smart phone or non internet based phone to seek instant help for free, she assured that it was safe and considers confidentiality of every information transmitted by the user.
She said: “Anyone in the bedroom, farms, corporate settings etc. can use these USSD codes. It brings down the wall of non-accessible assistance by victims of sexual and gender based violence. It brings services and information to the doorstep of victims a t no cost whatsoever. Victims do not need credit, airtime or phone data to access this.
“The USSD will bridge the gap between service providers and women by providing information on their right and nearby services such as psychosocial support centres, shelters, health facilities legal support etc. It will address information gaps without internet connectivity acting as a potential barrier. It will aid speedy service delivery because findings have revealed that often, perpetrators of SGBV live under the same roof as the victims.”
Legal/Programme Officer Lawyers Alert, Solumtochukwu Ozobulu, explained that the choice of the five states was based on locations where situations such as conflict and displacement were pushing women and girls to be more disadvantaged.
While adding that the pilot phase was aimed at weighing how the code could serve women and girls in danger of abuse, she said plans wee already underway to escalate the intervention to other states and bring more local government areas on board.
Team Lead, Ikra Foundation for Women and Youth Development in Bauchi State, Amina Garuba, said the USSD code would serve the vulnerable at the grassroots better saying, ” they will be able to access services which they were not able to access before now. We look forward to giving our best to survivors of SGBV in Bauchi State.”