Nigeria has long faced a gender-based violence crisis, with 30 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 having experienced sexual abuse. The Covid-19 pandemic precipitated lockdowns, closed schools and required many people to stay home from work to prevent the spread of the virus. The result was increased vulnerability for women and girls to gender-based violence because they had to remain in close quarters with perpetrators, with an overall rise in cases reported across the country.
To ensure uninterrupted service delivery, the ACHIEVE project, funded by USAID, has worked to adapt its programming amid Covid-19. ACHIEVE – Adolescents and Children HIV Incidence Reduction, Empowerment and Virus Elimination – is a five-year global effort to reach and sustain HIV epidemic control among pregnant and breastfeeding women, adolescents, infants and children. The project is implemented by a Pact-led consortium of top global HIV/AIDS partners, including Jhpiego, Palladium, No Means No Worldwide and WI-HER. ACHIEVE focuses on priority PEPFAR countries across Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.
In Nigeria, through the USAID Integrated Child Health and Social Services Award, ACHIEVE is partnering with local organizations across six states – Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Cross River, Lagos and Kano – that serve orphans and vulnerable children, or OVC, to reduce their vulnerability to HIV. ACHIEVE worked with these partners to develop business continuity plans with strategies to adapt training approaches for virtual delivery and to enable rollout of violence-prevention programs at the community level in a safe manner. The No Means No curriculum, which focuses on sexual violence prevention, response and recovery for both boys and girls aged 9 to 14, was chosen to complement other community-based violence prevention programs.
Covid-19 has meant an overall rise in cases of gender-based violence in Nigeria.
Covid-19 travel restrictions meant that in-person training needed to be shifted to a virtual platform. Typically, No Means No trains new instructors during in-person workshops lasting three to four weeks. The curriculum modules and materials were adapted for use online and were delivered to 64 instructors, half of them men and half women.
The logistics of running a quality training are always important, but they turned out to be especially critical in a virtual model. Having access to strong internet, microphones and web cameras was a major factor in a smooth training experience. No Means No also learned that assessment in the virtual model can be challenging, especially when it comes to teaching women physical skills to defend themselves.
Still, the online training was successful. Participants demonstrated that they had learned the core concepts of the curriculum, and all were able to be certified as No Means No instructors.
“Despite that it was online, they were able to teach it as if they were physically with us,” one female participant said.
Said another instructor, “It almost did not look like it was virtual. It was as though it was a physical class.”
Now that they are certified, the instructors will go on to educate boys and girls across six Nigerian states, with the aim of reaching nearly 75,000.