About the Project

On the 7th of October 2019, BBC Africa showed a 13-minute documentary on sexual harassment by two university lecturers in Nigeria and Ghana. This was a report of an undercover investigation into how female students are sexually abused by lecturers. The situation has since not changed after that with increase in the reports of incidences of sexual violence on campuses (API, 2019 report). With this report, it is imperative to investigate the current situation in a bid to develop new strategies. While some universities are taking bold steps to establish units in their universities to prevent incidences of sexual  violence and encourage students to report cases, others are yet to come to terms with the need to create safe spaces for staff and students on the university campuses. Aside from this, the unequal power relations between female and male academics in the system make such issues to be easily swept under the carpet. With this project, we open up opportunities for all academia to respond, discuss and even bring such issues into public debate so that we can map and identify the problems and find potential solutions to cases relating to sexual violence.

Gender based violence such as sexual violence is a strong indication of societal justice issues in a given society. With this project, we aim to map, measure and solve (in the long run) problems with sexual violence on university campuses in Nigeria. Sexual violence is an integral part of gender-based violence and occurs in higher education institutions regardless of the statuses of the women involved. The success of the project hopes to contribute to impact women by empowering them so that they can be independent individually and end the culture of silence. Violence against women on campuses limits access of women to education (they may fall behind their classes due to psychological reactions to trauma, or it may deter them from coming to campus and attend classes altogether). Education is an important vehicle for social mobility, particularly for vulnerable groups and low-income populations. Preventing violence against women/sexual violence on campuses, therefore, eventually contributes to equal access in education for women.

The purpose of the project is firstly to understand the current situation on university campuses in Nigeria with respect to sexual violence. To do this, we used perspectives of university students and staff of all genders. Using this understanding, we were able to create a mentoring and training programme that hopes to help empower women and educate the wider community to challenge sexual violence and understand how to provide appropriate support to women on university campuses. This in turn, should allow women who are experiencing violence know how to access support. The learnings, mentoring and training programme and case studies are shared on this website. We encourage universities to use the materials to develop mentoring programmes of their own.

  1. Identify the extent to which the universities have followed up on the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), and whether this has impacted on state universities compared to the federal universities.
  2. Understand the experiences, regarding safety and inclusion, of students and staff on the campuses of universities in Nigeria through a survey and focus groups (short term).
  3. Use the learnings from objective 1 and 2 to create a mentoring and training scheme for students and staff that aim to address sexual violence on university campuses in Nigeria (medium term).
  4. Assess the effectiveness of the mentoring and training scheme created in objective 3 (medium term).
  5. Share the findings and resources created during the project with policy makers and universities across Nigeria and in the UK (long term).
  1. Explore and understand the experiences of students and staff on University campuses via a survey & focus groups.
  2. Written report/publication on sexual violence on university campuses in Nigeria based on the findings from the survey and focus groups with students and staff (short term).
  3. A mentoring and training programme for students and staff on university campuses that aim to address sexual violence on campuses (medium term).
  4. A written report/publication on the effectiveness/impact of the mentoring and training programme for students and staff (medium term).
  5. The website will be launched by a virtual conference across Nigeria and the UK.

The project is participatory in design, with outcomes driven by an understanding of the lived experience of students, staff, and university leaders. A further success measure is the creation of this website that can be accessed by all universities in Nigeria and the UK. The learnings and outputs from this project can be shared widely in and between countries.

Behaviors such as misogyny and sexual violence are strong indicators of societal justice issues in each society. Sexual violence is an integral part of gender-based violence that tends to disproportionally impact on women from low socioeconomic groups. Understanding the impact of these behaviors on university campuses, and the effect they have on feelings of safety and inclusion led to the development of a mentoring and training programme for all students and staff. Hence, this project addresses some of the barriers to higher education that women (particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds) face. Education is an important vehicle for social mobility particularly among vulnerable groups and low-income populations. Creating safer and more inclusive university campuses will therefore, in the long term, support equal access to education for women and other under-represented groups. The longer-term aim of the project is to create a supportive network of universities in Nigeria and the UK in which members commit to challenging violence against women and creating safe and inclusive campuses. The work conducted within the project, specifically the mentoring programme, is shared widely and can have maximum impact on women and their access to education on the national scale over the next 2-5 years.

The project contributes to many UN Sustainable Development Goals:
  1. Gender equality
  2. Social inclusion
  3. Quality Education
  4. Reduce inequalities
  5. Partnerships for the goals
Impact to environment

The potential harm is minimal. Educational materials have been designed with online/virtual delivery in mind in order to reduce environmental impact moving forward. The national network is a virtual network in order to minimize carbon footprint.

Our study design specifically places women as key stakeholders and beneficiaries. The interviews and focus groups used in the project were designed collaboratively with input from the female academic team members in Nigeria and the UK, with input from our associate partners and review by recipients to ensure that they are fit for purpose and specifically reflect the needs and perspectives of women. We acknowledge that it may also be beneficial to include men, both male students and male university stakeholders, to get an idea of how women’s roles and safety in higher education are constructed and dealt with. Including men has another advantage in providing the perspective of those who may have witnessed misogyny, sexual violence, or other discriminatory behaviors. Given the sensitive issue, survivors often do not want to disclose their experiences, even when given the opportunity to do so anonymously. It can be much easier for witnesses to speak about experiences of others. Such a design usually yields more representative findings than just asking about personal experiences. If done like that, men can be important witnesses and sources of information as well.

Our approach is beneficiary led and does not rely on external data. Our project plan included collection of data on the incidence, awareness, and policies around safety on university campuses. The data were collected from students, staff, and all relevant stakeholders, such as senior leaders and policy makers. In this way, the educational materials and support mechanisms that we designed are fully informed by key stakeholders, i.e., women. Benefits:
  1. Empowerment of the victims of misogyny, sexual violence, or other discriminatory behaviors
  2. The existence of penalty for the perpetrators as written in the related acts/regulation
  3. Women (and men) on university campuses feel safer because of policy, procedure, and support mechanisms
  4. All students and staff are aware of the impact of misogyny, sexual violence and discriminatory behavior, and understand how to challenge these behaviors through allyship and mentoring
  5. Specific mentoring and training materials will be developed that can be shared widely with universities in Nigeria and the UK
  6. A network of universities and other organisations (with associated website), to ensure sustainability and continual enhancement of the work. This network will have the potential impact on national policy and practice.
  1. Uneasy task to find people who are willing to be involved in the project as some aspects of safety for women and underrepresented groups are still considered as taboo
  2. There are several parties such as religious groups who due to their conservatism resist discussing issues such as gender-based violence publicly
  3. Resistance from university leaderships – the relations between people of different genders, This project will empower women as most often they are the victims of gender-based violence and discrimination. It will also offer victims the support to voice out and get fair justice. This will contribute to more equal, open , and just relations between men and women on campus. However, it may also lead to conflicts with men and among women if some women start to speak out about sexual violence and thus challenge existing power relations.
Other steps taken to address these concerns include:
  • Guaranteeing that all data input is treated anonymously by using safe and secure platforms.
  • During focus groups and interviews we ensured that participants feel confident that there will be no negative repercussions if they speak out by making sure that we do not mix groups, making sure we do not bring students together with staff, Matching groups according to gender, age, and status and the focus groups were held away from public spaces within the university so that participants feel secure and cannot be overheard or interrupted.

The Lagos State University has an existing center for Reporting sexual based violence and they have engaged students in some workshops previously. This study provided a platform for further engagements. The lead applicant from Nigeria has a strong link with Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and all the other stakeholders that are partners in the project. Stakeholders are ensured that victims are signposted to appropriate practical, emotional and legal support. The Center for Response and Prevention of Sexual Based Violence (CRPSGBV) at Lagos State University, Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, student organizations and the three universities (external stake holders) are our allies in executing the projects. Their contribution and participation were crucial in running the project such as workshops and activities to raise awareness about sexual violence in the universities. The universities engaged in this project are:

  1. Lagos State University of Education, Ijanikin
  2. Lagos State University of Technology, Ikorodu
  3. Lagos State University, Ojo

The applicants already have strong links with these stakeholders and this project will serve to strengthen those links specifically with regard to sexual violence and activities to combat this. The immediate beneficiaries of the project are students, primarily women, both on university campuses in Lagos and across the whole country, whose freedom from sexual violence is the main aim of the project. In addition, we hope that universities in Lagos State and other states will benefit from receiving advice on how to make their campuses safe for all students.

Qualitative data collected during discussions and focus groups are disaggregated by age, gender, cultural and social background, as well as educational subject discipline.

Quantitative data collected during the assessment of the educational material designed are also disaggregated by age, gender, cultural and social background, as well as educational subject discipline.

EDI – Is this project including or addressing any additional Equality, Diversion and Inclusion aspects (e.g. age, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background)?

The primary focus of this project is the provision of safe and inclusive university campuses, leading to improved educational outcomes for women. However, taking an inclusive approach through focus groups helps to support investigation around intersections of gender with socioeconomic background, religion, disability and sexual orientation.


 Risk 1: Women not feeling able to participate because of confidentiality concerns

Management: Participants were given full information about the study and how data will be handled prior to any decision being made about participation. Participants are referred to by a code and are not identified in recordings or transcripts. Focus group participants for student sessions were not mixed. Research shows that women feel more able to contribute and share experiences if they are women-only groups. Focus group facilitators were also matched in gender to the attendees.

During the study, participants may feel obliged to continue even if they feel that it is not beneficial or do not want to. To mitigate this, participants were advised at the start of the study that they are free to withdraw at any time.

Risk 2: The Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to impact on the project, if travel is restricted between countries.

Management: This were mitigated by the use of online platforms for meetings, surveys and focus groups . Using an online platform for focus groups is not ideal but can be employed in case of travel restrictions.

Risk 3: Personnel issues within the partner institutions

Management: The existence of deputies within each lead organization allow to compensate for personnel issues (e.g., illness) around leadership.

The Aston University team support with ethical approvals ensuring that the research is carried out to UK equivalent standards of ethics and research and integrity.

In Nigeria, the LASU Research ethics committee also approved the project proposal.

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