The Duchess of Cornwall has become a patron of the Mirabel Centre, Nigeria’s first Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), which provides succor and a safe place to survivors of rape and sexual assault in Nigeria.
Founded in July 2013, by Itoro Eze-Anaba, the Mirabel Centre has ensured survivors who have recently or in the past been sexually assaulted are able to access free post-incident support services at the centre.
In the last eight years, the Mirabel Centre has provided free medical and psychosocial support services to over 6,450 survivors (including persons with disabilities).
Meanwhile, for several years, The Duchess of Cornwall, a member of the British Royal Family, who is married to the HRH Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne, has highlighted the work of domestic abuse and sexual assault charities in the UK and overseas in supporting victims and survivors, with the aim of breaking the taboo around the subject.
According a statement from the Press & Public Affairs Officer, British Deputy High Commission, Lagos, Ndidiamaka Eze, The Duchess’ charity work varies across several themes including health, literacy, supporting those in need; victims of rape and sexual abuse and domestic violence.
It explained: “Her Royal Highness has visited shelters and support centres around the world and in 2020 became Patron of the UK domestic abuse charity SafeLives.
“Her Royal Highness has attended round table discussions on domestic abuse in Australia in 2015, in New Zealand in 2019, and as part of the Women’s Forum at CHOGM in London in 2018.
“The Duchess visited Nigeria together with The Prince of Wales in 2018 when her engagements included joining a discussion hosted by the Women of the World Festival (WOW) saying, “Women get together to discuss things that matter to them so I think especially here in Nigeria it is a fantastic place to start.”
It quoted The Duchess of Cornwall to have said: “I am delighted to become Patron of the Mirabel Centre in Lagos. It is a truly trailblazing organisation, supporting survivors of rape and sexual assault as they seek healing and justice. Their vital work means that women need no longer suffer in silence and I am deeply grateful to all Mirabel’s wonderful staff and volunteers.”
Also, Eze- Anaba, said it was an honour to welcome HRH The Duchess of Cornwall as the Centre’s first Patron.
“We are pleased that the Duchess has agreed to be our patron. We have followed her work with charities working in the sexual and gender-based violence space and have seen how passionate and committed The Duchess is towards providing support for survivors.
“Indeed, this announcement is timely considering the devastating nature of sexual violence and the increased advocacy for survivor support services which has led to an increase in the number of survivors who require the services of the centre.
“The current COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the endemic nature of sexual violence. We have seen a huge number of children and women coming forward to report cases of sexual assault and rape. Our youngest survivor is a 3-month-old baby and the oldest, an 80-year-old woman. We are confident that the support of The Duchess will make a difference.”
Speaking also, the UK’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing CB said: “I am absolutely delighted that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall has agreed to become Patron of the Mirabel Centre in Lagos Nigeria.
“In this role, she will help showcase the essential work the Mirabel Centre does to support sufferers of sexual assault and domestic abuse. HRH The Duchess of Cornwall has been a long-standing supporter of women who have suffered from these crimes. Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is a global epidemic ravaging all levels of society, and one of the most prevalent and devastating human rights violations.
“It cuts across all social, national, economic boundaries and, sadly, remains largely unreported due to the stigma and shame too often associated with survivors, and the impunity too often enjoyed by the perpetrators.”
The Mirabel Centre is the first of its kind to provide holistic and high quality psychosocial and medical services to these survivors in Nigeria, and this patronage would no doubt help to ensure safe and continued support to sexual assault survivors, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
“This will complement the UK Government’s other partnerships in Nigeria to tackle SGBV,” it added.
Located in a modest two-room building within the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in the heart of the city, the centre is currently expanding its residence to make adequate room to serve survivors of sexual violence promptly.
Chiemelie Ezeobi and Peter Uzoho