Emergency shelter in Calabar helps survivors of violence against women and girls
Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BCRI) intervention for child survivors in Calabar came about when children were discovered held in police custody a clear contravention of the provisions of the Cross River State Child’s Rights Law (2009).
Three girls in identical, colourful dresses walk into the main hall of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BRCI), their newly-found friendship with each other masking the trauma that led to them boarding at their new but temporary home.
The girls each have a bed, a change of clothing, well-prepared meals and a matron who sees to their daily needs, including chaperoning any visit to their bedroom. Previously accused of ‘witchcraft’ or abandoned to the streets, the girls have found BRCI to be a haven, where dreams can come true.
BRCI’s intervention for child survivors in Calabar came about when children were discovered held in police custody a clear contravention of the provisions of the Cross River State Child’s Rights Law (2009). Often, the children had been rescued from an abusive environment and taken to a police station. BRCI was motivated to step in and establish an emergency shelter, as the state lacked appropriate facilities to accommodate rescued children – inevitably exposing them to more abuse.
As the programme manager at BRCI, Kebe Ikpi credits his current role and success to his experiences during his formative years.
“I grew up in a peaceful home and my parents made it clear to us that differences of opinion should not lead to a fight,” said Kebe Ikpi.
“As a teenager who grew up in army barracks, I was concerned when I saw children in my neighborhood with bruises on their bodies. I found it ridiculous for a man to beat a woman or inflict injury on a child in the name of discipline. I remember telling my friends that I will never beat anybody, no matter the reason. These incidents informed my interest in defending the rights of the vulnerable.”
BRCI responds to over 100 cases a year, but during the COVID-19 lockdown, the team supported more than 250 vulnerable children by providing them with food, handwashing materials and face masks, while offering remote support and supplies to about 30 women.
“We have rescued and successfully reunited some children with their family members and successfully facilitated foster parenting for those branded as ‘witches,’ while also achieving several convictions of perpetuators of sexual abuse - five of which happened this year.”
The group also supports the training of teachers, religious leaders, social welfare officers, case workers, community surveillance team members and community volunteers, in Calabar, Akamkpa and Obanliku local government area of Cross River State on detecting and responding to incidents of violence – and helps communities to take ownership of ending violence against women and girls.
The work is done with the support of the Spotlight Initiative - a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union (EU) and United Nations to end all forms of violence against women and girls.
“Children need all the support they can get, and in the case of survivors of abuse, they require psychosocial support in order to make a full recovery,” said Kebe Ikpi.