By Millicent Senava Mannah
Caritas Freetown, with support from Manos Unidas, organized one-day training for residents, stakeholders and teachers in ten remote communities in the Western Rural area.
The training, which was conducted on the 3rd February 2023 took place at the Kandeh Turay Hall Waterloo and was geared towards creating awareness on Sexual Gender Based Violence under a Project titled: “Strengthening Behavioral Change on SGBV Prevention: Access to Justice and Hygiene Education for Vulnerable Women and Girls in the Western Area”.
Giving an overview, the Program Manager, Idriss Gibson Mansaray, applauded all participants who took time out to attend the training maintaining that Caritas is a family and they always find people where they are to work with them.
He continued that Sexual Gender Based Violence is an issue that has been disturbing women and girls furthering how if such continues society will not be lively for all.
Idriss Gibson revealed that according to statistics more girls drop out of school after BECE or WASCE, and in the university many drop out before the final year. He stated that when it comes to jobs more men have access to jobs than women which lead to more access to finances than women underpinning that same occurs in politics.
He continued that the participants are called to be trained for them to be aware of the roles they should play in preventing sexual violence from happening, and how they should not condone perpetrators for committing such an offence, neither should they give their girl child to early marriage.
He further disclosed that the project has been going on for years and how they are working on the implementation also disclosing that they provide psycho social support for children who have been sexually abused.
There are sponsored by organizations that are against SGBV for them to implement this project.
He continued that nobody will want his/her girl child to be exploited underscoring how the project is about sex and gender continuing that out of a survey conducted it was found out that majority of people don’t have knowledge about Sexual Gender Based Violence.
One of the stakeholders, Christiana Davies Cole Esq., intimated that the training is for participants to become Ambassadors in their communities stating that if they fail to fight against SGBV, how it will affect them. According to her, it is the business of everyone and how, no matter how life is, what happens to one person can also happen to another.
She noted that knowledge is power and how years back when a child is being abused, they hide it maintaining that, people need the knowledge that SGBV is a crime and according to her, that is why people with expertise, come together and make it a law.
She revealed to participants that there are now the Sexual Offences Act and Gender Empowerment Act expressing the view that every law in Sierra Leone is Gender friendly.
Christiana averred that, majority of the sexual offences cases affect women stating how women are easily affected by sexual gender based violence.
According to her, rape means when a man forcefully penetrates into a woman. She made mention of how men can also be raped and how, even married women can also be raped.
She disclosed that, the old Sexual Offence Act is 5-15 years, and how the new one shifted from 15 years to life imprisonment revealing that another offence is indecent assault which is touching the waist of a lady, or to fondle her breast for which the penalty for such a crime is NLe 5million or 5years imprisonment
Fatmata Bangura one of the participants from Benguema, said she learnt a lot about gender, sexual penetration laws and the penalties or jail terms for committing such acts, and how she will go back and educate others in her community.
Another participant Rev. Ventis Osman Koroma from Kossoh Town, stated how the training has helped him to be familiar with the law, as they have been treating things with levity, but how they were given the opportunity to go in depth into the law.
He continued that as a leader of the United Methodist Church, he will go back and teach his congregation about what he has learnt.
The training was climaxed with interactive sessions culminating into a question and answer session.