“Empowerment begins with the eradication of sexual and gender-based violence against women”
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) continues to be a pressing issue, but a ray of hope shines through Caritas Freetown’s SGBV Project, with support from Manos Unidas. In a concerted effort to mitigate SGBV, the project team continued its quarterly community engagements aimed at educating men and boys on Gender-Based Violence, referral pathways, the crucial role of men and boys in reducing GBV, and essential sensitization skills.
This transformative initiative was held on Thursday, the 28th of September 2023, at the Makorbeh Community in the Western Area Rural District. A total of 180 participants from the 20 targeted communities attended the engagement.
Kumba E. Gando, the Team Lead of the Caritas Freetown SGBV Project, delivered an insightful overview of the project, highlighting the deliberate focus on men and boys due to their significant role as perpetrators of violence against women and girls. She emphasized the engagement’s importance in addressing all forms of violence against women and girls, underscoring collaborative efforts with institutions such as the Sierra Leone Police, Rainbo Initiative, and Don Bosco to ensure project success.
Mr. Andrew Kponeh, the lead facilitator provided participants with a comprehensive understanding of SGBV, elucidating the relevant laws, including the Gender Laws, Child Rights, and Sexual Offense Act. He underscored the consequences of violating these laws, emphasizing that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Mr. Kponeh also made clear distinctions between rape and sexual penetration, offering practical examples and outlining the associated fines and jail terms for these crimes.
He passionately urged the men and boys to abstain from all forms of violence against women, reminding them of the legal safeguards in place to protect women’s rights.
Sheriff L. Bah, an outreach officer of the SGBV Project, engaged participants in discussions about the differences between gender (society-assigned roles for males and females) and sex (biological distinctions) and cited contemporary examples to aid their comprehension.
He elucidated the roles that men and boys should play in mitigating SGBV and encouraged them to follow proper referral pathways when dealing with SGBV cases.
Alex M. Sesay, a teacher residing in the Makorbeh Community expressed his gratitude for participating in the engagement. He stated, “I have learned a lot about sexual penetration, rape, and gender-based violence.” Sesay emphasized that this engagement served as an eye-opener, revealing the many misconceptions surrounding the treatment of women and girls. As a teacher, he embraced the responsibility of passing on this newfound knowledge to his students and their parents.
In the ongoing battle against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, initiatives like Caritas Freetown’s SGBV Project are lighting the way forward. By educating men and boys and fostering a community that respects and values the rights of women and girls, steps are being taken to create a safer and more equitable society for all.