Victims of Sexual Abuse in Sierra Leone Graduate in Caritas Freetown’s Skills Program

Credit: Caritas Freetown

Dozens of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Sierra Leone have completed a skills training program that Caritas Freetown designed to help the victims of abuse to get back on their feet.

In the programme that ran for two years ending with the Wednesday, March 20 graduation, 25 SGBV victims from Waterloo, a highly populated settlement in Sierra Leone’s Western Area Rural District, were equipped with catering and knitting skills.

At the graduation ceremony, the 25 participants in the programme were also awarded start-up kits for income generating ventures based on the skills they had acquired.

In his address at the graduation ceremony that was held at the Western Rural Council Hall in Waterloo, Caritas Freetown Executive Director, Fr. Peter Konteh hailed the participants in the program for demonstrating resilience after undergoing abuse.

“Today marks a significant milestone in the journey of these remarkable students who have shown dedication, perseverance, and a strong commitment to their education and personal growth,” Fr. Konteh said.


He added, “As we come together to recognize their achievements and distribute start-up kits to support their future endeavours, we are witnessing the tangible impact of our collective efforts to empower women and girls in the community.” 

The training was part of a comprehensive project that Caritas Freetown undertook to support victims of gender-based violence and prevent further abuse in targeted communities of the West African country.

Funded by Manos Unidas under the implementation of the development arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown, the program was designed “to prevent all forms of violence against women and girls, promote behavioural change on good hygiene practices in 20 Schools and 20 Communities between October 2022 and September 2023 in the Western Area Rural District.”

Fr. Konteh said that the theme of this year's celebration of the International Women’s Day (IWD), "Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress," resonates with the Caritas Freetown project targeting women who have undergone abuse.

“By focusing on strengthening behavioural change on gender-based prevention, promoting access to justice, and providing hygiene education for vulnerable women and girls, we have taken concrete steps towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society,” the member of Clergy of the Archdiocese of Freetown said.

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He added, “We have successfully worked to prevent violence against women and girls and instil positive hygiene practices in schools and communities across the Western Area Rural District.”

Apart from the skills training, the Caritas Freetown project supported survivors of domestic violence through medical aid, police investigation, court hearing, referrals, psychosocial counselling, as well as financially.

At a larger scale, the Catholic Church charity entity in Sierra Leone held awareness raising and advocacy sessions especially in learning institutions.

Caritas Freetown established 20 school clubs and 20 community groups, Fr. Konteh said, and added that the groups had been crucial in carrying out advocacy campaigns on GBV prevention. “Their involvement in the project enhanced their participation and feeling of ownership of the project. This strategy has been key for the sustainability of the project,” he said.

Additionally, 25 school-going survivors of sexual penetration, and severe physical assault from poor homes in remote communities were successfully supported with essential educational learning material for their studies.


SGBV in most communities in Sierra Leone dates back to the years of Sierra Leone’s civil war, when the government created a resettlement area and left the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their devices.

In a past interview with ACI Africa, Marie Sesay, the Coordinator of Caritas Freetown Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) in Grafton community, which used to be an IDP camp in Sierra Leone’s Western Area Rural District said that soldiers who were sent to restore peace in the country solicited sexual favours from young girls, who would “sell their bodies to the soldiers for simple things like food and water.”

“Other men in the camp also started soliciting for sexual favours from the women and girls. They felt that it was their right to receive the favours and those who refused were raped. This way, sexual violence became a rooted practice in our community,” Sesay recounted in the November 2022 interview with ACI Africa.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.