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Ghana’s Catholic Gender Specialists Urge Strengthening Response to Gender-Based Violence

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women marked Wednesday, November 25, two Catholic gender experts in Ghana are calling on the government to work toward strengthening the response to gender-based violence (GBV).

In an interview with ACI Africa correspondent in Ghana, the two Catholic experts advocate for collaborative approaches in addressing GBV challenge in the West African nation, from government to non-governmental entities including religious leaders.

“(The) government of Ghana should strengthen the capacity of health workers to respond to gender-based violence including for survivors of sexual abuse,” Dr. Miriam Rahinatu Iddrisu, a Catholic Gender Specialist told ACI Africa Correspondent in an interview Tuesday, November 24, the eve of the annual event.

The capacity strengthening initiatives should include providing sexual and reproductive health services as well as mental health and psychosocial support to survivors, adapting referral pathways, and developing GBV referral guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Iddrisu added.

Noting that concerted action is needed to ensure that perpetrators of GBV are held accountable for their actions, she urged the government to go beyond the provision of quality health and psychosocial services to survivors and include “justice and reparation.”

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“(The) government with its development partners should strengthen and resource the decentralized Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) offices personnel,” Dr. Idrissu, a Sociologist further said.

To achieve the target 5.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that amount to “eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation,” she underscored the need for collaboration between stakeholders.

In her considered view, Ghana’s government needs to work with partners to ensure that referral systems are in place to facilitate survivors’ access to health services, psychosocial support, safety and security, justice and legal aid; and socio-economic support.

“Government, donor agencies, Non-governmental Organization, Civil Society Organizations and Church Based Organizations and all Human Rights and Gender Activists programs should also focus on preventing and mitigating risks for women and girls, and meeting their unique needs,” Dr. Idrissu said.

Further, the parishioner of Holy Rosary Parish at Adenta of Accra Archdiocese encouraged routine training of police personnel, prosecutors and social workers on human rights standards in the investigation and prosecution of GBV and sexual violence cases.

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With the leadership of the UN observing that gender violence has increased during the COVID-19 lockdown, a phenomenon dubbed “shadow pandemic,” Dr. Idrissu calls on Ghana’s government to bridge funding gaps to ensure that essential services for survivors of violence are maintained during the pandemic.

On her part, the Director of the Directorate for Prevention of Domestic Violence (DPDV) of Ghana’s Kumasi Archdiocese, Sr. Olivia Umoh has called for members of the society to collaborate with the government in helping GBV victims.

“Churches and Mosques and traditional leaders have to also help to address such domestic issues as violence in the home,” Sr. Olivia told ACI Africa correspondent.

That is why, the member of the Daughters of Charity (DC) says, “The Catholic Archdiocese of Kumasi has set up the Directorate for Prevention of Domestic Violence in the Archdiocese and mandate a team of trained personnel to train others and to work to eliminate domestic violence in Catholic families and the community at large.”

The Nigerian-born Nun notes that despite the government's establishment of DOVVSU, many victims do not report such violence.

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“Families and neighbors have a duty to help victims of domestic violence report cases,” Sr. Olivia said, adding, “Violence against Women and Girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations that remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.”

Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights, she told ACI Africa correspondent November 24, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Based on the 1960 assassination of the three Mirabal Sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women calls for an end to violence against women and girls.

This year’s event is being marked under the theme, “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”

The November 25 event also marks the start of the 16 days of Activism against gender-based violence that will conclude on the International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2020.