Source: www.africanakua.com | Ibrahim Sorie Jalloh, Sierra Leone
A powerful wave of social consciousness and volunteerism spreading across the African Continent among the youth is producing a different breed of amazing modern African leaders. These new breeds of leaders have become so sensitive to the inadequacies in their communities, they would go at any length to correct them.
Throughout the month of August 2019, two Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Sierra Leone – Children’s Assurance Program Sierra Leone (CAP-SL) and the alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YAL) Sierra Leone – with support from the United States Embassy have embarked on a series of sensitization programmes on Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in communities across the country with special focus on Freetown’s Western Area Rural District, which is becoming notorious for perpetuating the act.
In the Western Rural District, the project was taken to the Jui, Kossoh Town, Hastings and Grafton communities.
According to a report by Rainbo Initiative – R.I (a Sierra Leonean based NGO) in their 2018 Year in Review publication, Sexual Gender Based Violence is on the increase in Sierra Leone with the most affected persons being women and girls. In 2018, about 3137 survivors were reached, out of which 2900 cases of sexual assault and 237 cases of physical assaults were recorded.
The R.I Freetown Centre alone recorded 1596 cases of sexual assault with the youngest survivor being a 12-month-old baby, who was sexually penetrated by a family member.
In the first half of this year, 2019, the three R.I Centres of Freetown, Kenema and Kono together, recorded 1051cases of rape.
CAP-SL and YALI, Sierra Leone Chapter, moved by these statistics organized SGBV awareness programmes in the most affected areas in the country.
They designed excellent activities which were not only exciting but fulfilling.
First, there was stakeholders’ engagement. Key stakeholders were called to a meeting and were encouraged to take ownership of the project. During the meeting, they identified the common SGBV issues in their communities, highlighted the causes and suggested possible solutions to ending them in their various communities.
Secondly, there was training of focal persons on SGBV education and prevention. Key institutions in the fight against SGBV were invited to facilitate the training. A representative from Legal Aid Board facilitated on the laws and policies in preventing and responding to SGBVs. The Family Support Unit (FSU) Department in the Sierra Leone Police Force facilitated on The Role of the FSU especially in handling (arrest) and charging cases of SGBV to court for trial. A representative from Rainbo Initiative was there to facilitate on the referral pathway and respond mechanism to SGBV cases.
The trainees have become contacts for CAP-SL and YALI Sierra Leone. They were charged with the responsibilities to identify, report, and refer cases of such matters to the appropriate authorities to effectively address them.
Thirdly, there was an open-air male engagement. Public Address (PA) Systems were stationed at strategic junctions especially, at the park areas to raise awareness on ending SGBVs. This activity was done by men who addressed fellow men in the communities because it is men who are mostly being considered as the perpetrators of SGBVs. Stickers were posted on vehicles and motorbikes to spread the information about the negative effects of SGBVs.
The final activity would be school sensitization which would be rolled out when school reopens later in September. Pupils would be educated on SGBV issues and the laws that are against their practice. Pupils would be crowned as SGBV ambassadors in their respective classes and communities.
CAP-SL was set up to primarily help limit endemic social problems and challenges children and teenage mothers are encountering in the Western Area Rural District. YALI RLC Sierra Leone Chapter is a non-governmental organization of participants from different cohorts with a mandate to developing leadership capacity of youths.