Lawyers Alert Launches USSD Shortcodes To Improve Access To SRHR Services

A Nonprofit organisation, Lawyers Alert has launched its *7006*24# Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) shortcodes aims at improving access to SRHR information and services for women and vulnerable groups in Nigeria. 

At the launch of the USSD codes, Lawyers Alert’s Director Of Programs, Roseline Oghenebrume said it would enhance prompt and effective response to victims and survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV). 

She noted that SGBV is prevalent in Nigeria, with its interventions inequitably distributed owing to limited knowledge, lack of access to services, and poverty. 

She lamented that COVID-19 Pandemic and its attendant lockdown further exacerbated the challenges by narrowing the opportunity for SGBV victims and survivors to access relevant SRHR services. 

Oghenebrume “60% of our women reside in rural areas where there are no means of accessing adequate services and information.”

“At Lawyers Alert, our engagement with various vulnerable groups during and after the COVID-19 lockdown greatly evidenced this. Our inability to reach, especially the rural population, was severe. People were trapped with their abusers with no platform to resort to for aid. Even where some had phones, internet connection is often a challenge in rural areas. 

“Post-COVID, where to get information and services remains an issue owing to economic problems like transportation fare, data, or airtime to reach for help, which perpetuates sexual harm and abuse. 

Considering the above, Lawyers Alert developed and is now launching this USSD code.”

Oghenebrume said the USSD would enable  individuals to type in codes on any phone, whether a smartphone or not, internet-based or not, and the person will be avail information as to where to access free services when in danger of sexual and gender-based abuse. 

She noted that the code is accessible in 5 States including Bauchi, Benue, Enugu, Kano, and Osun.

“Anyone in the bedroom can use these USSD codes. Even If in the farms, corporate settings or anywhere, people can use the code. It brings down the wall of non-accessible assistance by victims of sexual and gender-based violence. It brings services and information to the doorstep of victims at no cost whatsoever’s. Victims do not need credit, airtime, or phone data to access this.”

“The USSD will bridge the gap between service providers and women by providing information on their rights and nearby services such as psychosocial support centers, shelters, health facilities, legal support, etc. It will address information gaps without internet connectivity acting as a potential barrier. It will aid speedy service delivery because findings have revealed that often perpetrators of SGBV live under the same roof as the victims.”

Oghenebrume said the USSD is safe to use as the issue of confidentiality is factored into its development and that it is free without SMS charges. She said the USSD works on any phone even without internet connectivity to provide information on SRHR services within proximity to users.

“We are here today to formally launch the USSD and understand its operation’s modus. This enables us, especially the media, to effectively publicize and enlighten women and vulnerable groups at the grassroots of its usage. It gladdens me that we all are voluntarily here.”

“I am hopeful that, as a team, we will encourage women and vulnerable groups to use the USSD to curb Sexual Gender Based Violence in our various locations. The USSD codes will be invaluable regarding SGBV interventions, both at policy and non-governmental levels, being posited in an informed and coordinated manner.”

“We are equally confident that the USSD codes will hopefully create a ripple effect on other states in Nigeria and West Africa. 

Lawyers Alert is indebted to all our partners who have been with us in our efforts to aid women and underserved populations in Nigeria. We are grateful to our donors for the opportunity of bringing this idea to life and ultimately impact victims and survivors of SGBV in Nigeria.”

“We appreciate the cooperation and support of Ikra Foundation for Women and Youth Development, Prison Inmates Development Initiative, Community Advancement Initiative for Self-Reliance, Livingspring Human Development Initiative, Spring of Hope for the Girl Child Development Initiative, Connecting Lens Initiative, Bridge Connect Africa Initiative, Rescue the Women, Society for the Improvement of Rural People, and African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect. It has been immense, and we are grateful,” she said.

Oghenebrume expressed gratitude to the media for your passion, time, and unwavering commitment to the cause.

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