Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is a cancer deeply rooted in most part of the world and fueled by the culture of silence. Children being a vulnerable group are not spared by this cancer. It is experienced in the form of rape and other forms of sexual abuse, child marriage, etc. More often than not these heinous acts are perpetrated by persons close to the victim, who the victim generally trusts, mostly family members.
Stakeholders at a review meeting held in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region on implementing the Minimum Essential Service Package (MESP) have underscored the need for effective collaboration to help fight Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
The stakeholders who made the call include the Departments of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), Ghana Education Service, Ghana Health Service, and some civil society organizations.
The Department of Gender organized the event with funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to fight SGBV and promote children’s growth and development.
According to the stakeholders, it is only through this that victims and survivors of SGBV would be adequately protected and given the necessary essential services. In contrast, perpetrators are made to face justice to serve as a deterrent to others.
Issues of SGBV still increasing in the Northern region- Be a voice
The Upper East Regional Director of the Department of Gender, Mr. James Twene, said due to the sensitization programme embarked on earlier is outfit with support from the UNFPA, people in the region were now getting enlightened and had begun to report cases of abuses to the law enforcement agencies for redress. However, SGBV remained a problem in the region.
He said defilement, teenage pregnancy, child marriage, and other issues of SGBV were still increasing in the region. The situation is a source of worry hence, the urgent need for stakeholders to blend synergies to make a significant impact.
“One department, institution, or individual cannot do it alone, but when we collaborate, we can fight it because there is a lot of intimidation when handling cases of SGBV,” he said.
Mr. Twene said apart from engaging men, boys, and out-of-school and parent advocacy movements on preventing SGBV and promoting gender equality, the Department of Gender and other stakeholders had engaged essential service providers to play crucial roles in addressing issues of SGBV.
He mentioned Kassena-Nankana West, Builsa South, Bongo, Bawku, Talensi, and Nabdam Districts as the beneficiary areas. He noted that these areas have prevalent teenage pregnancy and SGBV and called for support.
Collective effort needed from all stakeholders to curb the SGBV
Mr. Gilbert Agulu, Principal Nursing Officer at the Upper East Regional Health Directorate, noted that although there was a marginal reduction in cases of teenage pregnancy compared to the last three years, collective effort from all stakeholders was needed to curb the phenomenon.
He advised parents to constantly engage their adolescent children, especially girls, and equip them with sexual and reproductive health education to help them make informed decisions to avoid unintended pregnancies.
Desist from pushing pregnant girls into marriage; support them instead
Ms. Rose Akanson, Regional Girl Child Education Officer, Ghana Education Service, noted that due to community involvement, many girls who dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy have returned to the formal school system through the government reentry policy.
She called on parents to prevent pushing their pregnant girls into marriage, supporting them to deliver and return to school or empowering themselves with skills training.
Mr. Abdulai Jaladeen, Regional Director, CHRAJ, advised stakeholders to report cases of abuses for investigations and redress.
Ways to fight SGBV issues, Concluding thoughts
Ghana has laws against sexual and gender-based violence. However, laws no matter how progressive and well-written do nothing but accumulate dust if they are not enforced, or their existence made known to the general public.
SGBV issues can be curbed mostly through sensitization, Capacity building and Acting as an advocate for survivors.
To end SGBV issues requires everyone to become a watchdog in their various communities.
It doesn’t cost much to be a watchdog. Does it?