By Abubakarr Harding
Caritas Freetown, on Thursday, May 25th, 2023, conducted the second phase of training sessions for Police Officers from the Family Support Unity (FSU) representing 20 different communities in the Western Area. The sessions, held at Twin Hall in the Hastings Community, focused on psychosocial approaches, case management, and behavioral change, all aimed at preventing SGBV, promoting access to justice, and providing hygiene education for vulnerable women and girls.
SGBV remains a significant concern in Sierra Leone, with women and girls disproportionately affected. Unfortunately, a lack of access to justice exacerbates the problem. In light of these challenges, Caritas Freetown collaborated with the FSU to enlighten them on the crucial role of the Police in protecting women and children.
The training covered various topics, including the rights of women and girls, the role of the police in the juvenile justice system, and how to effectively respond to and manage cases of SGBV.
Inspector Tarawallie facilitated the training, which was well-received by the participants. The officers were given the opportunity to express their opinions and views on SGBV-related issues. They also made a commitment to avoid engaging in such acts themselves and pledged to share their newfound knowledge with their respective communities. By doing so, they aim to create a more enabling environment for women and girls to realize their fullest potentials and make a meaningful impact on society.
Lucky Bah, the Outreach Officer for Caritas Freetown, emphasized that the first phase of the project lasted for six months. He stated that the purpose of the engagement was to strengthen behavioral change in the prevention of SGBV. To achieve that, Caritas Freetown has partnered with various groups, including advocacy school clubs, communities and the FSU.
Bah further explained that the organization has a memorandum of understanding with the Police to provide them with quarterly training sessions on case management and psychosocial approaches regarding SGBV. He highlighted that the initial training served as an introduction, while the second phase focused on sharing experiences and how the training has helped the officers in their work.
In their efforts to ensure the safety of survivors, Caritas Freetown has implemented a support system known as the “survivor’s package.” This package includes financial assistance to survivors, enabling them to visit the Police Station and provide essential information if called upon.
Sergeant Agness Hawa Leigh from the Family Support Unity at Waterloo Police Station expressed their commitment to addressing SGBV issues. She stated that they have been actively working to moderate cases of SGBV and have been raising awareness in the community, encouraging people to report such incidents without fear. Sgt. Leigh mentioned that they have received training from various organizations and expressed gratitude to Caritas for providing them with stationary supplies.
The approach taken by the Police involves encouraging victims not to be afraid and assuring them that perpetrators will face legal consequences if found guilty. Additionally, if victims face threats in the community, they are taken to Don Bosco for their safety.
Caritas Freetown’s ongoing efforts to train and collaborate with the Police are crucial steps toward combating SGBV and promoting a more just and secure society for women and girls in Sierra Leone. By empowering law enforcement officers with the necessary knowledge and tools, the organization can collectively work towards ending the cycle of violence and ensuring that survivors receive the support and justice they deserve.