By Amin Kef Sesay
Our Big Idea of the Week, 6th-12th September 2020 is “Violence is Everyone’s Business-Do not Keep Silent Look Out and Speak Up”. Violence in all its form is very inimical to development. Peaceful co-existence in any community creates the space for progress to thrive.
This is all the more reason why we must discourage the perpetration of violence because in the wake of any violent incident destruction of lives and properties lives sorrow and misery.
This could never be an overstatement as it is evident that violence has permeated most communities in the country. Violence is most times perpetrated by young people, the vast majority of whom are unemployed and always high on drugs. Gang, that is clique, violence has sent young people to their early graves, left some maimed sometimes leading to looting and destruction of properties.
Another form of violence that we are today grappling with is that which is known as Sexual and Gender Based Violence.
Gender-based violence is violence toward a person because of their gender or identity. Gender-based violence is a human rights violation deeply rooted in gender inequality.
Gender-based violence can happen to anyone – women and girls, men and boys – but women and girls are the ones who suffer most often.
Physical and armed violence are the most common types of gender-based violence among boys. Women and girls, especially those with disabilities, are more likely to face neglect, physical and emotional abuse, and sexual violence and exploitation.
The spread of coronavirus around the world and in Sierra Leone has added stress to many of our lives. We have overcome difficult times before and we will get through this too.
Let’s support one another by listening to each other, offering words of understanding and encouragement and helping through small acts of kindness.
Worry about loved ones getting the virus, children being out of school and earning the money to feed and support one’s family is a lot to manage. You are not alone. It is understandable to feel worry, fear, and anger in these challenging times.
While anger is a normal human emotion, violence is never ok. If you are angry about something try to step away from the situation. Take a moment to breathe and think before you act. Doing this helps us to calm down and avoid hurting others when we are upset.
Staying at home and away from crowded places is important to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, but home is not always a safe place for many women and girls. We all have a responsibility to protect and create a protective environment for women, girls and boys in our community by reporting acts of violence and abuse.
Men and boys can lead by example and treat women and girls with respect. Men and boys can be role models by stepping in when they see other men and boys doing harm toward women or girls.
Because violence toward women and girls is so common some men and boys may not even realize that certain acts of violence are wrong, because they have seen other men and boys doing it their whole lives. That is why it is so important for men and boys to publicly support women and girls, listen to them and treat them with respect and step in to prevent or stop violence by other men and boys.
If you are harmed, feel afraid or pressured, or someone is disturbing you, you have the right to ask for and get help. Do not keep quiet!
Talk to someone you trust and go to the nearest Family Support Unit (FSU) or One Stop Center (in select hospitals) where they will listen to you, give you the care and support you need and help you report all forms of abuse.
You can also report to your local authorities including the Child Welfare Committee and religious leaders.
Violence is everyone’s business and communities have a role to play in preventing it and supporting those who experience it. Do not keep SILENT, LOOK out and SPEAK up!
If you see or learn of any act of sexual violence happening in your community, you must SPEAK out to help the survivor and punish the perpetrator.
EVERYONE has the right to say NO to sex!
Any sexual contact between two people must be fully and freely agreed by those two people, on EVERY occasion. Any forced sexual act where one person does not want it, is violence and a crime.
Report ALL cases of sexual violence to the nearest Family Support Unit (FSU) or hospital, or call the 116 Rape hotline for free on Orange, Africell or Q-cell at any time of the day.
You can also report to your local authorities including the Child Welfare Committee or religious leaders,
Having sex with a child under 18 years is an abuse and an offence against the State!
Most of the violence against women and girls happens in their own homes. Girls are especially vulnerable to violence if they are left unsupervised. The person who uses violence is always the one to blame. We should support women and girls who have experienced violence – not blame them!
Asking for sex in exchange for food, money, or materials is an abuse of power and does great harm to women and girls as well as boys. This is corruption and should be reported on the Anti-Corruption’s free mobile hotline, 515
Parents and caregivers should talk to their children at an early age about ‘good’ touch versus ‘bad’ touch. They should teach their children to talk to an adult they trust if they have experienced a ‘bad’ touch. They should believe and encourage their girls and boys to talk about people or situations that make them uncomfortable.
As a parent or caregiver, when a child comes to you with such information, you must take the child’s claims seriously and immediately ensure that the abuse stops.
Survivors of rape can go to a One Stop Center. One Stop Centers provide a range of services under one roof. Each Center provides medical, psychosocial counselling, and legal aid for survivors in an environment that is confidential, private, safe, respectful, and without judgment.
Rape is a crime in Sierra Leone! Taking money to settle a matter or not reporting rape cases is also a crime! If you try to settle a sexual offence such as rape out of court, you will be sentenced and / or charged a fine.
Don’t underestimate the power of your voice as a community to let women and girls know it is not their fault and where they can get support!