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WHO, Global Fund, Others Pledge Support for C-CASH Initiative Against Sexual Harassment

WHO, Global Fund, Others Pledge Support for C-CASH Initiative Against Sexual Harassment

Jerry Adesewo

The World Health Organization (WHO) has pledged its support to the Campus Campaign Against Sexual Harassment (C-CASH) initiative, a creative project aimed at combating sexual harassment in Nigerian universities. This announcement came during the launch event at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) on June 29, 2024.

Ms. Sylvia Opinia, the Coordinator for the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Misconduct (PRS), represented Dr. Walter Kazadi, WHO Representative, Nigeria, at the event. She emphasised the organisation’s commitment to addressing sexual harassment as a critical public health issue. “Sexual harassment is not just a social or legal problem; it is a significant public health concern that impacts the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of individuals and communities,” Ms. Opinia stated.

Read Also: C-CASH: A Creative Approach to Combat Sexual Harassment

WHO’s Commitment and Global Efforts

The World Health Organization has a long-standing history of advocating for and implementing measures to combat sexual harassment and violence. Globally, WHO has been at the forefront of efforts to create safe environments, promote gender equality, and support survivors of sexual violence. Through various programs and collaborations, WHO works to develop comprehensive strategies that address both the immediate needs of victims and long-term preventive measures.

During the panel session, Ms. Opinia underscored the necessity for urgent and comprehensive measures to address sexual harassment. “Organizations must implement and enforce clear policies against harassment, provide training for employees, and ensure safe and effective reporting mechanisms,” she said, citing the 120-day investigation timeline in WHO’s sexual harassment policy framework.

She also highlighted WHO’s role in supporting initiatives like C-CASH, emphasising that creating safe environments and instilling confidence in victims to come forward are crucial steps in combating sexual harassment.

Global Fund’s Support and Safeguarding Emphasis

A virtual participant and key voice in the action to reduce incidents of sexual harassment, Winifred Alobo-Agogo from Global Funds, also pledged her support, aligning with Ms. Opinia’s philosophy on safeguarding environments. “Safeguarding is an overarching umbrella that covers SEAH (Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Harassment), and organisations should be encouraged to imbibe safeguarding as a culture so it becomes everyone’s job,” Alobo-Agogo stated.

She added, “C-CASH should be intentional about gathering evidence for the great work they do so we can see the scope, coverage, and lessons learnt to influence policy going forward and serve as a basis for designing other pilots around the country. I am honored to be able to add my voice to this community engagement. Thank you organisers, thank you audience for engaging, and congratulations to the conveners.”

Expanding the C-CASH Campaign

The C-CASH campaign plans to extend its efforts to other Nigerian tertiary institutions, emphasizing the need for greater collaboration between health sectors, governments, and communities. “By working together, we can develop comprehensive strategies that not only address the immediate needs of victims but also work towards preventing harassment from occurring in the first place,” Ms. Opinia concluded.

To underscore the important role of art as a tool, Dr. Ejike Oji announced a playwriting competition for students to write an advocacy play promoting the C-CASH campaign, with a prize of N100,000. This gesture was immediately supported by Ms. Opinia, who donated an additional USD 100. The Arojah Royal Theatre also pledged to consider producing the winning play during the 2024 edition of the Abuja International Theatre Festival and Awards (ABITFA 2024).

With WHO’s support and the collaborative efforts of institutions like the Alliance for African Partnership of Michigan State University, University of Pretoria, Dr. Ejike Oji Community Development Foundation, and others, the C-CASH initiative represents a significant step forward in the fight against sexual harassment in Nigeria.

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