Mrs. Remilekun Thompson is one of the Nigerian women making impacts in issues relating to Sex and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). She’s the co-founder of D-Family Tutor, an organisation, whose mission is to deliver quality intervention, promote family values and how families can confront daily challenges.

Thompson is also the author of ‘Red Flag,’ a practical book guide to educating children about sexual abuse. She’s also an ardent member of the renowned Advocate for Children and Vulnerable Persons Network (ACVPN), a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) with advocates in different parts of the country.

The advocate, who is passionate about her job, said a lot of girls and women were usually affected by SGBV, adding: “My passion for this kind of advocacy was born out of my passion of working with children. I have a teaching background and I’m also a Sunday school teacher, where I work closely with children. I started doing curriculum and educating them to make them understand things around them; the discussions focus majorly on development and how to help children develop themselves properly. I also teach them values. I’m focused on child advocacy.”

Talking about her book, Thompson said: “The reason the book was done is to help children and parents to work together. Due to my passion of working with children, I realised that most parents find it difficult to educate their children when it comes to sexuality, private parts and parts of the body that are ‘no go areas.’ I found out that was a challenge so I came up with the book, ‘The Red Flag.’ It comes with a practical guide and it’s very interesting. It’s also a do it yourself book, which helps children to know the perpetrators and the pedophile. It makes them to know that perpetrators perpetuate evil deeds. The book received a lot of reviews and it’s very interesting. It tells the part of the body that shouldn’t be touched by strangers. It comes with a story and it’s very colourful. It has helped parents and guardians to discuss with their children. It’s educative and the work is ongoing.”

Thompson noted that a friend of her, who got the book when he came to visiting in her office, gave the book to a 10-year-old girl living with him. “After she was through reading the book, he asked her questions and she opened up to him, saying that their neighbour, an elderly man of over 50 years old asked her to come to his apartment. The book helps children to speak out,” said Thompson.

According to Thompson, parents were not doing enough with regards to SGBV. She said that while some parents were always too busy to protect their children, others were just ignorant.

She stated: “People need to understand abuse has nothing to do with being educated. Educated people are also in abusive relationships, yet they will not realise it. People need to speak up and women need to know that even if they’re married, it doesn’t mean they must be in an abusive relationship. People don’t like speaking up because they don’t want to be seen as wayward.”

Thompson noted that the last time the world celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child; she tried to find out some statistics and discovered that 12 million girls had been forced into marriage before the age of 18.

Thompson acknowledged that the government has contributed a lot to checking and curtailing SGBV, but, “it needs to do more.”

She further noted: “During the last 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, people were trained and sensitised on how to fight against GBV. The Lagos State Government has a phone number, which people can call concerning such issues. People need to get the phone number and contact them, also, people need to speak up, which is the only way to get help. The Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation create a lot of awareness about these issues. The Lagos state has the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) at Alausa. The Unit is committed to ensuring total eradication of sexual and domestic violence.”

Thompson explained that the worst case she had experienced and handled in her advocacy work with families was the case of a lady who went to hospital with her six years old daughter. The child was having vaginal discharge.

Doctor needed to take a look at her. However, prior to that time, the mother had gone to chemist to get vaginal cream, which the child had been using, but the discharge had continued.

Thompson narrated: “When the doctor examined the child, she was surprised to discover that her hymen had been broken. It means she was no longer a virgin. The mother was shocked too and when the child was questioned, she kept mute. However, investigation commenced and the mom said she has another daughter at home, who was three years old. When that daughter was also examined, it was also discovered there had been penetration; the child was no longer a virgin. When the three year old was questioned, she said it was her father. The older one refused to say anything because their father had already threatened her. I asked their mom if there was another male in the house, she said no. She said that the last male visitor to their house was a cousin and he had been gone for long. I urged her to investigate, but she said the girls always sleep with their dad, that she had a boy, but the boy is just a year old and sleeps under a mosquito net. Anyway, when we investigated, we discovered it her husband. I introduced the woman to DSVRT that she should go there for proper investigation and justice for the children. She said no, that it was the man’s first offence, that we should forgive him. She gave a series of excuses and finally stopped picking my calls. It really broke my heart that those girls will be in that situation. She and her husband later called a pastor, who told them that it was a spiritual problem.”

Thompson said that SGBV can never become extinct, globally, let alone in Nigeria. She opined that the recent 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence by the United Nations (UN), helps nongovernmental organisations to be more focused on issues.

She stated: “I think the Lagos State government established a clinic in 2021 for SGBV, for people that are being abused and all of that. They can report to that clinic and they attend to you psychologically, and they help you in different ways.”

She explained that child marriage as an aspect of SGBV was more complex and has to do with poverty. “Child marriage is one aspect of this gender inequality, which mostly happens in the north, with most fathers giving out their daughters in marriages, just to get money.

“Mothers usually do not have a say in the matter. Most of these girls get betrothed at birth to men who are old enough to be their fathers. It can also criminalise her sexuality and block her access to care and information. Most of their parents are illiterates, so they are not aware that what they are doing is abuse. In many places, girls who have relationships or become pregnant outside of marriage are shamed for bringing dishonour on their families or even stopped from going to school. In such circumstances, parents may see early marriage as a way to protect their daughters and their families. Girls may agree, and wish to gain status as a wife and mother,” said Thompson.

She opined that although the awareness of SGBV was poor in Nigerian schools, the solution to the menace was the government.  She added: “I think the ministry of education should focus on this area, as well as to add it to school curriculums, which will then help in preventing SGBV.  Also, workers in educational sector should be trained on issues that have to do with SGBV and child rights.”

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