Int’l women’s Day: FG launches electronic dashboard to fight gender-based violence

Bimbola Oyesola and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja

The Federal Government, has launched an electronic dashboard to document and track gender-based violence, which it said was in the increase, in commemoration of the International Women’s Day, yesterday.

Director General, National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Mary Ekpere-Eta, disclosed this to newsmen, in Abuja, and also, explained that the documentation would go a long in reducing such vices that have given Nigeria a bad name.

She added that the theme of the event; “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change,” should spur relevant agencies to arrest and prosecute offenders of gender based violence, and also, rehabilitate victims.

“Working towards the actualisation of the theme and also, provide social protection for women, the Centre, in collaboration with the office of the wife of the president, has established a gender-based violence electronic dashboard to improve documentation and set up tracking mechanism of gender based violence trends across the country,” she said.

In a related development, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said Nigeria and other developing countries need to rejig their developmental models to accommodate more women; if they are to record substantial progress and harness the full potential of their human resources.

The governor said Edo has shown the light in this regard, with prioritisation of women in development, shown through robust gender mainstreaming policies and programmes as well as the enactment of laws that protect women and other vulnerable persons from abuse.

The governor said this in commemoration of the International Women’s Day celebrated every March 8, by the United Nations and its sister organs.

“The celebration is something we look forward to every year because we value our women in Edo and have worked to empower them.

“We have demonstrated this by appointing an adviser on gender and assistants in all the local government areas of the state to interface with women and ensure that their affairs are brought to the limelight.”

Meanwhile, President of the NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW), Mrs. Modupe Oyekunle, has said beyond the present 35 percent representation which government seems to adhere to, Nigeria women now want 40 percent.

She said: “The theme calls on us to look at those areas where we can actually balance for better, the first is in the area of gender parity. We want a situation where we will have women inclusion in boards and other top positions.

“This is already happening outside, but, we want it in Nigeria; beyond 35 percent, we want 40 percent.”

The women who had earlier held a rally and a march to the Lagos State Government House earlier in the day, had presented a Charter Bill, which has a seven agenda coalition to the Clerk of the House of Assembly.

Prominent on the Bill, th Centre demanded that government policies on women should, henceforth, be chaired by women.

Mrs. Oyekunle said other issues in the bill include urgent attention to problem of multiple taxation, funds accessibility, protection for women in lower business level, need for women to develop themselves to be able to grab opportunity when it comes.

Culled from Sun News Online

Locked up for trying to take his own life, in a country where suicide is still a crime

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) Last year Ifeanyi Ugokwe was arrested and locked up for weeks. His crime: he tried to take his own life.

After weeks of being hungry and jobless, the 25-year old says he reached breaking point after a security guard pushed him to the ground while he was searching for work at a building site.

"I was tired of walking around that day. And I was determined to work there... so I tried to force my way in, then he pushed me, and I fell down flat on the floor," Ugokwe told CNN.

"I started begging him because I was tired, I really needed that job because I needed to eat."

Humiliated, Ugokwe went to a nearby lagoon and jumped in.

After being rescued by passing fishermen, Ugokwe says he was handed over to police officers who arrested him and put him in jail.

Attempting suicide is a criminal offense in Nigeria, under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, and carries a penalty of up to one year in prison. A holdover from when Nigeria was a British colony, the law was abolished in Britain under the Suicide Act of 1961, which happened after Nigeria gained its independence in 1960.

Ugokwe says he's speaking out about his attempt to take his own life despite stigma around the subject in Nigeria because he doesn't want people to suffer as he did.

When he woke up on the fisherman's boat, Ugokwe says he was angry that his attempt had failed.

Following his arrest, Ugokwe was held at a cell near the Lagos lagoon, in the country's economic capital, before being transferred one week later to another cell on the Lagos mainland.

Ugokwe says he was unaware that attempted suicide was a crime in Nigeria.

"When they put me in the cell, the first thing that came to my mind was what did I do? I didn't kill anybody. I did not steal. What am I doing here? What did I do wrong? It's my life, not (the) government's life," he said.

Shortly after his arrest in February, Ugokwe appeared before a magistrate to determine whether he had committed an offense. His case was postponed and he was transferred to another facility on Lagos Island.

It was there he met Imanuella Ojeah, a criminal lawyer and a member of the Elevation Church in Lagos, whose volunteer prison unit makes weekly trips to local prisons.

"I remember he seemed tired of life. He begged me to get him out of that place. He told me... I am not mad. I am just depressed and don't have money to eat," Ojeah told CNN.

Ojeah and her team represented Ugokwe at his next court appearance at Sabo Magistrates Court, a few weeks later, in April 2017. They were asked if someone was willing to act as a guarantor for Ugokwe and look after his welfare if he were released.

Ojeah found someone from the Elevation Church who agreed to look after Ugokwe and the magistrate dismissed the case.

Although Ugokwe found freedom, the legal process around these types of cases is lengthy and complicated for people suffering from serious mental health issues, says health law expert Cheluchi Onyemelukwe who is campaigning to abolish the suicide law in the country.

"What happens in the legal process is the police arrest you, put you in a cell, and then charge the matter to court and you are arraigned before a magistrate who determines whether it appears an offense has been committed," she says.

As in Ugokwe's case, the survivor is then remanded to jail to wait for a trial date. If found guilty, they may be imprisoned for a maximum of one year.

Although jail terms for suicide survivors are rare, Onyemelukwe says it is the process of arresting and taking them through a legal process that is particularly cruel.


nigeria suicide sexnigeria suicide sex"I believe it doesn't reflect who we are as Nigerians... it is inhumane and I know that we can do better than that. I think it is probably the worst possible thing that you could do to somebody who finds themselves in that sort of situation," she said.

"People who are thrown into a cell right after... wonder why the suicide wasn't successful. It makes people that I have spoken to feel helpless and feel like there really isn't a reason to go on."

Ugokwe says he contemplated suicide again while in jail because of the conditions he was held in.

"The worst part of it was not just that they put me in prison, it was that they locked me in a cell with crazy people. I was with mentally disturbed people. Most of the people there were talking to themselves and jumping around."

In jail, Ugokwe says he and other inmates were forced to take pills.

"At first, when they brought the pills to me, I refused... there was nothing wrong with me, but then I was beaten and forced to take the pills.

"Those pills had terrible effects on me... all I want to do is sleep and eat."

A spokesman for the Lagos division of the Nigerian Prisons Service, which operates prisons in the country, denied Ugokwe's allegations.

"Allegations and incidents of force-feeding, beating and or forceful admission of medication on inmates are false and do not occur in any prison within the Lagos Command," Rotimi Oladokun told CNN in an emailed statement.

"The Controller of Prisons, Lagos Command has no tolerance for such excesses and will not condone such under his command," he added.

The Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem told CNN that although attempted suicide is criminalized in the country, the state does not recommend that anyone should be locked up.

Suicide rates are usually underreported in Nigeria because of the stigma associated with it. However, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 9.5 suicides per every 100,000 people in the country.

Some common causes are depression and anxiety linked to high levels of poverty.

A 2017 WHO report found that Nigerians have the highest incidences of depression in Africa, with around 7,079,815 suffering from depression, a figure that represents 3.9% of the population.

In 2015, Lagos State amended its law to recommend hospital treatment for those who have attempted suicide.

But the law has yet to be changed at a national level and is not currently being considered for review, according to health law expert Onyemelukwe.

"We are guided by what the law says," Kazeem says. "But in the hierarchy of offenses, this is a simple offense, and the recommended action is hospitalization.

"The law does not say anyone should be incarcerated. Attempted suicide is not a crime. It shows some form of disorder which needs medical attention."

Kazeem added: "My office has not prosecuted anyone. The state government does not prosecute attempted suicide victims. We are not aware of any prosecutions, if it was brought to my attention, we would advise against it."

Kazeem said police officers do have prosecutorial powers in Lagos State and he could not speak to whether such a trial went ahead in Ugokwe's case.

Read more: The #MeToo stories you haven't heard: Meet the women speaking out in Nigeria

However, Kazeem acknowledged that more training was needed for police officers.

"We are going to do that education process. They are doing the wrong thing if they lock up victims," he said.

CNN made several requests for a comment from the Lagos State Police Commissioner but did not receive one.

There are frequent reports in local media of survivors being arrested and tried for attempting suicide.

In July this year, a 27-year-old man was charged in court with attempting suicide in June.

Other African countries like Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Gambia, and South Sudan also outlaw suicide.

Onyemelukwe says the suicide law, a legacy of the colonial era, has no place in Nigeria today.

"I want Nigerians to see real people who have attempted suicide and have survived and realize that these are people who could be our friends, our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers.

"Attempted suicide in itself is a risk factor for contemplating suicide. In fact, it is the predictor of the fact that somebody will commit suicide. We are in a place where all of these laws deserve a second, a third, a fourth look until we change it," she added.

She believes police need to be given the power to refer survivors for treatment rather than arrested and put through the legal system.

"The person doesn't have to spend any time in prison," she says.

Life has started to get better for Ugokwe in recent months. He's found friends he can call on when he's feeling sad but he's still trying to get back on his feet.

Thinking back on his time in jail, Ugokwe says he wouldn't want anyone to go through what he experienced.

"No one deserves that," he said.

"At that time, I needed love. I didn't need to be put in prison and punished for something I don't even understand."

GEDE ATTENDS END OF SMILE PROJECT DISSEMINATION

The Sustainable Mechanism for Improving Livelihoods and Household Empowerment (SMILE) project, a consortium of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), ActionAIDS and Westat has come to an end in Nigeria. The project has contributed positively the lives of thousands of vulnerable children and their caregivers through a coordinated multi-sectorial approach in 5 states. A dissemination event was held on Wednesday, November 28 2018 in Abuja, with Gede in attendance. 

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There were a host of guests from development partners, federal and state government agencies, patient community and project beneficiaries.

CRS’s Country Representative, Rebecca Hallam and its USAID counterpart in their different remarks, welcomed participants and expressed satisfaction within the outcomes of the project cycle. 

Beneficiaries greased the occasion with testimonies including enrolment into HIV-AIDS treatment and care, households economic strengthening and access to basic education for vulnerable children.

Goodwill messages were received from individuals, partners and government agencies. Gede’s Managing Director, Mr Joseph Odogwu, thanked SMILE  and the USAID  for the partnership that contributed to developing and validating  mental health screening tools to be used among  orphans and vulnerable children  in Nigeria as well as the pilot study for tools utilisation.

The SMILE project may have ended, but the effects will be felt for time to come!

30% of Nigerians suffer mental illness –FG

The Federal Ministry of Health says about 20 to 30 per cent of Nigerians suffer from mental illness.

The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, said this at the Mental Health Action Committee and Stakeholders’ Workshop in Abuja on Monday.

Abdullahi said with a population of about 200 million, Nigeria had a high rate of mental illness. This implies that Nigeria has about 60 million persons with mental illnesses.

He said, “There are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterised by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.

“Mental disorders include: Depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders including autism.

“In Nigeria, an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of our populations are believed to suffer from mental disorders. This is a very significant number considering Nigeria has an estimated population of over 200 million.

“Unfortunately, the attention given to mental health disorders in Nigeria is inadequate. The level of awareness of the Nigerian public on mental health issues is also understandably poor, and with lots of misconceptions.”

Also speaking, Director of Public Health, Dr Evelyn Ngige, said mental illness could destabilise a person more than HIV, heart disease, accidents, and wars combined.

She said Nigeria’s mental health statistics was too bad, adding that the high rate of suicide in places like Lagos may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Ngige added, “In Nigeria, an estimated 20 -30 per cent of our populations are believed to suffer from mental disorders, which is a very significant number. Considering the current economic situation in the country, the above statistics are damning and in the light of the recent suicidal episodes recorded in parts of Lagos (which are obviously a tip of the iceberg), it forces a rethink in our general attitudes to mental health and questions our current maintenance of the status quo.”

The director said the committee on mental health had failed to achieve its goal because of lack of funds.

Culled From Punch

KIRSTY SMITH FROM CBM UK VISITS GEDE

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CBM UK, Kirsty Smith visited Gede Foundation  on November 5, 2018, accompanied by CBM’s country representative, Mr. Samuel Omoi. Kirsty was interested in seeing how community mental health projects work and how exactly Gede is making it work. 

The  team, comprising Gede and CBM  staff  visited  one of Gede’s Community Mental Health and Development Project sites in Mpape at the Primary Health Centre, to interact with  healthcare workers and  project beneficiaries. Gede, with support from BasicNeeds UK and USA  is helping  to build  support groups of people with mental illness, epilepsy and their carers. The beneficiaries of the SHG as well as health workers were present at the meet and greet, which took place at the Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC). The services users and carers detailed how the programme has benefitted them and their communities. They informed Kirsty about the stigma related issues they faced in the past and how they have been able to overcome them. They further noted that as a support group, they help each other out especially as it relates to medication. They make contributions and help each other out. 


The Team moved to Karu Behaviour Medicine Unit, a secondary health facility where treatment, care and rehabilitation are provided to users. At Karu, the head of the behavioural unit, Dr Daramola, explained the relationship that is existing between Gede and the facility, where indigents patients are benefiting from the treatment costs supported through the project. Dr. Daramola explained the type of help they provide to Gede Foundation beneficiaries but noted that at the moment, they are not privy to bed space. This means that while they can get treated (medicine and therapy), they cannot be admitted to the hospital. Dr. Daramola explained that they are building more bed spaces and with time, more patients can be admitted for close monitoring as the need arises.  Kirsty asked about the gender distribution of in and out patients at the facility. Dr. Daramola responded that the facility has more male patients owing to substance abuse being higher among the men, compared to the women. 

The visit ended with hopes of working together on similar projects in the future. As always, check back to find out more exciting news!

GEDE and CBM Partner on Transitional Aid Specialized Services Project

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A multi-year plan of action is currently being developed and led by Christian Blind Mission(CBM) to provide all-inclusive mental health, eye health, obstetric fistula and WASH for people affected by insurgency, including people with disabilities in Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa States. The workshop is sponsored by CBM and taking place in Jos, Plateau State from 24 to 27 October, 2018.

Working through a consortium, partners are proposing a three-year project cycle to ensure effective provision of specialised services to vulnerable populations in the 3 states.

Gede will implement Community Mental Health and Development Programme (CMHDP) using the BasicNeeds’ Model targeting 15000 beneficiaries. At the end of the workshop, participants will agree on key approaches, outcome statements, results areas, risk analysis, tasks, timeframes and budgets. The project outcomes will contribute to achieving 4 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

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GEDE and LAFARGE: A new session of educational empowerment to households

10 rural communities in Cross River State have been benefiting from the partnership between Gede Foundation and UNICEM (now LAFARGE) since 2013. Every year, 100 youths are provided with tuition and books to continue in secondary and tertiary institutions. The programme also includes school-based anti drugs and substance abuse campaigns. 

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Recent reports showed that the programme has recorded improvement in school attendance, participation and academic performance among beneficiaries who are usually selected through approved community development committees (CMDs). Over 600 households have been reached with the intervention, and many have graduated from secondary schools and tertiary institutions. 

This improved performance in schools is linked to the integration of other effective programmes such as the mental health, social and physical health among students (like counselling and outreaches), making available recommended subject textbooks, use of other instructional materials and choice of career courses.

This current year (2018/19 session) is reaching out to additional 100 households to enrol their wards into the programme aimed at laying foundations for productive lives.

Gede In The News!

Gede Foundation has empowered youths in Mpape to carry out  advocacy on treatment of mental health and other related cases.

The awareness programme to mark the World Mental Health Day with the theme, ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’ in Mpape, Abuja, took place at the weekend.

The programme officer, Zunzika Thole, said there was need to break taboos about mental health issues, advance policy and reduce stigma and discrimination amongst those with mental illnesses.

She said the programme was about providing education, awareness and livelihood support and empowerment for those affected with mental health.

She added that some mental ailments were caused by substance abuse by younger people.

“We need a system that focuses on the people rather than drugs and that is what we are doing. Let us focus on the people and rehabilitate them, if we do that even if the drugs are there, they will not be able to get them because the demand will go down,” she said.

A social psychologist at the event, Samuel Jinadu, said substance abuse among adolescents was a major cause of mental health disorder, adding that without mental health, there was no health.

“We must understand that mental health can come in diverse ways and we shouldn’t term it as a spiritual problem; all mental health cases are health related and we must take responsibility to seek help for those that are affected.

“It is a treatable condition if detected early and it is not communicable when you touch the person that is affected. When you see people that have seizure, or withdrawing syndrome go close and render help,” he said.

Culled from Daily Trust


10/10 - World Mental Health Day 2018: Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World

Yesterday, October 10, 2018 was World Mental Health Day. To mark it, one of the Foundation’s Self Help Groups (Mpape chapter), held a rally to raise awareness and then convened at the chief’s palace for a brief talk by our resident psychologist, Mr. Samuel Jinadu.

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Mr. Jinadu highlighted the use and abuse of drugs by youths today. He advised on signs to look out for and what to do in case someone exhibited such signs. He went further to explain that mental health conditions and epilepsy are non-communicable diseases - one cannot catch them by being in contact with another human being. He also explained that these conditions are MEDICAL and not SPIRITUAL as some people often assume.

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The SHG leaders put up a small sketch to highlight the stigma they have faced in the past. They sketch showed a woman having an epileptic seizure in the streets. Two women were walking by and one of them cautioned when the other lady decided to help. She said that touching the epilptic woman would transfer the sickness to her. Upon hearing this, the helpful woman explained that touching her or helping her cannot transfer the sickness to them.

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The day ended with scores of individuals explaining their journeys from when they began treatment, care and support, to where they are now. Most of them are in good shape, they are able to get treatment through the referral pathways that the Foundation and Primary & Secondary Healthcare Centres. So far, they have been able to sustain themselves and are continuing to do so. Our regular readers will recall that the Foundation sought to strengthen SHGs in Mpape and Mararaba, with BasicNeeds US. Please check the blog often for more updates!!

Happy 10/10!! Remember, there is no health without mental health!

GEDE AND NEPWHAN’s BODY & SOUL SELF-HELP GROUP

Written By Godwin Etim

Research shows that mental health disorders are highly prevalent among people living with HIV-AIDS, with major depressive disorders (MDD) occurring almost twice as frequently than in the general population. There are biological and social conditions that predispose a person with HIV to mental health disorders. The HIV virus itself also can contribute to mental health problems because it affects the brain cells. Some other opportunistic infections can also affect the nervous system and lead to changes in behaviour and functioning. Similarly, neuropsychological disorders, such as mild cognitive changes or more severe cognitive conditions, such as dementia, are associated with HIV disease.

 NEPWHAN (Network of People Living With HIV & AIDS) identified this burden among its members and initiated (in partnership with Gede Foundation) a self-help group mainly for families going through these conditions.

The maiden and inaugural meeting took place on September 22, 2018 at NEPWHAN’s Office in Asokoro.

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At the meeting, the Foundation presented its findings from the research on ‘Prevalence of depression, alcohol abuse, and suicidality among people living with HIV in FCT’, and also discussed the effectiveness of its current Community Mental Health Programme, using the BasicNeeds’ Model— which addresses stigma, provides medication and livelihood support leading to full recovery for those suffering from mental illnesses and epilepsy.

This partnership is timely as 1) the Country’s National HIV-AIDS Strategic Framework (2017-2021) mandated an integration of mental health services into the treatment and care protocols for those living with HIV, and, 2) the UNAIDS’ targets of 90:90:90 would be approached with some level of success when the mental health status for people at testing and treatment levels are considered and addressed.

The Body & Soul self-help group will be meeting every second Saturday of the month with the aim of expanding the groups across the states.

Visit our blog to receive more information on the outcome of this partnership

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