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IRC Combats Gender Based Violence

IRC Combats Gender Based Violence

A release from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has revealed that there will be ‘Sixteen Days of Activism on Violence against Women’ that begun yesterday Wednesday 25 November 2009 where one of the most active post-war NGOs, IRC got Sierra Leoneans to “Commit and act against the prevalence of gender based violence in post conflict Sierra Leone.”

The theme of the commitment rally that is taking place in the country under the coordination of IRC is “We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls!” Focal person in the coordination of the programme Amie Kandeh, stated according to the release “the war in Sierra Leone officially ended in 2002, but for the women and girls it has not ended and will not end until communities themselves take action and demand the Government of Sierra Leone prioritize ending violence against women and girls, a campaign which is first of its kind in the country in terms of relevance and patronage.

The IRC noted that “every day in Sierra Leone women and girls live in fear of being raped, physically and emotionally abused, forced into early marriage, or forced into Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); situations the sixteen days of activism hopes to target.  Recounting the organization’s support in the area of gender based violence in post conflict Sierra Leone, IRC stated that in 2009 it “supported rape crisis centres known as the Rainbo Centres, and provided direct services to over 800 rape victims of which 80% were children under the age of 15,” adding that “over 1,500 cases of domestic violence were reported to the Sierra Leone Police (SLP).”

‘Sixteen Days of Activism on Violence against Women’ is a global campaign to raise awareness on the injustice of violence against women and girls and a call to all to take action.  This year the IRC is said to be observing the women and men that contribute to a Sierra Leone free of violence and calls on others to make an impact to stop violence against women and girls.  We all have the responsibility to ensure that every Sierra Leonean, including women and girls, are given a chance to live a healthy and safe life. 

Giving the legal background to the issue, the release stated that “Sierra Leone is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) conventions that include clauses that protect women and girls from violence and abuse. The media was also told that three Sierra Leonean local laws the Gender Justice Acts, the Domestic Violence, Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce and the Devolution of Estate Acts 2007 exist to help combat the growing effects of gender based violence but further stated that “unfortunately the key implementers responsible for their enforcement including, the courts, police and health personnel do not believe in the content of the Acts, which gravely hamper accessibility”.

In the course of the sixteen days, it is expected that the government in convinced to commit additional resources to the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs to fully implement the three Gender Justice Acts and to ensure access to justice free from intimidation, threats and manipulation of the law as against its intended purpose.

The activism it is expected will be able to call on the government and all those working in the gender welfare sector to put policies in place to address Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); a situation that hinges very firmly on the rights and entitlements of girls in the country. It also expected that civil society, the media and other stakeholders w ill join forces with IRC to push for the enactment of the Matrimonial Causes and Sexual Violence Bills

At the ordinary and family level, individuals it is expected after the 16 days will be personally convinced to commit to never using violence at their homes and places of work. They would have also been schooled according the expected outcome of the programme to adopt the culture of talking openly to their partners about the implications of gender-based violence on the family and strategize how such could be stopped at home. The community it believed will also be convinced to each out to women experiencing violence and see how they can be rescued; see how they make concerted efforts to challenge men who use violence as a communication and control tool as well as to challenge local leaders and the Government to address violence and protect women and girls. Finally IRC notes, all must come on deck to ensure perpetrators of violence are brought to justice.

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