Mobilize | 2020

The Sexual Harassment Project

Fighting against sexual and gender-based violence in higher education institutions in Nigeria

The Stand to End Rape (STER) Initiative advocates against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) by leading policy change, working with communities to generate homegrown solutions, and providing pro-bono holistic psychosocial support to survivors. Sexual harassment within tertiary education institutions is one of the most prominent forms of sexual and gender-based violence women and girls face in Nigeria. Lecturers often abuse their powers to demand sex in exchange for admission and marks from both prospective and enrolled University students in Nigeria. One gender activist, Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, decided to take action and create STER after experiencing sexual violence upon refusing to engage in bribery.

STER began publishing educative content on social media to raise awareness about the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill 2016 that was before the National Assembly. This effort achieved limited success with a less effective version of the bill presented, and STER and partners demanded a bill review and met with the Senate President to renew this demand. The original bill was not passed due to the Academic Staff Union of Universities claiming that sexual harassment was not an issue. In 2018, STER partnered with the BBC Africa Eye Team to conduct an investigative exposé on sexual harassment in academic institutions. STER worked with survivors of sexual harassment from the University of Lagos to gain evidence against abusive lecturers. The BBC #SexForGrades documentary released in 2019 has over 5 million views and led to the re-introduction of the Sexual Harassment Bill by the Nigerian Senate following increased pressure and scrutiny through awareness and advocacy efforts.

STER implements a robust, multi-sectoral prevention framework that combines societal, community and relationship-level partnerships to move beyond compliance and create culture change in tertiary institutions. This initiative also centers the voices, experiences and perspectives of students (the most vulnerable group impacted by campus sexual harassment), empowering them as champions in efforts from awareness to action that target the elimination of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions. These high-level changes have the potential for a broader and more sustainable campus impact than a sole focus on individually oriented approaches.

Unequal power relations and lack of policies in academic institutions has fostered a culture where students are susceptible to unwanted sexual advances. We protect the safety of women and girls by preventing and responding to sexual harassment.