By Abubakarr Harding
On September 28, 2023, Caritas Freetown embarked on an important mission: to engage men and boys from twenty communities, through a training programme, in the fight against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) prevention. The initiative took place at the heart of Makorbeh Community-Songo, under the banner of the “Strengthening Behavioral Change on SGBV Prevention” Project which has as its primary objective to educate and raise awareness among men and boys about SGBV and its detrimental effects on women and girls.
The training session marked a crucial milestone in encouraging behavioral change among men and boys while promoting gender equality. Participants were given insights into the various forms of SGBV, existing laws and policies designed to protect women and girls, and a comprehensive understanding of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
One of the central elements of the training was educating the participants about the referral pathway and the pivotal role of men and boys in mitigating GBV. Women and girls, who have experienced SGBV, often face numerous challenges, including stigma, shame, and limited access to justice. Caritas Freetown aims to address these challenges by collaborating with communities to enhance access to justice and hygiene for vulnerable women and girls.
Kumba Emmanuelle Gando, the Project Lead from Caritas Freetown, emphasized the importance of educating men and boys about their roles within the community and their responsibilities concerning the laws related to SGBV. She pointed out that most cases of SGBV are committed by men and boys and that any sexual act without the consent of the other party constitutes rape, which is a violation of the law.
Kumba also highlighted an unfortunate reality: while both men and women can be victims of rape, men are less likely to report such cases due to factors like ego, while women are more inclined to report them. Therefore, educating men and boys about the gravity of SGBV and its adverse societal impacts is of utmost importance.
Moreover, Kumba revealed that Caritas Freetown had previously implemented similar projects in various communities. Still, this time they sought to extend their reach to communities that had not yet benefited from these initiatives.
The project is set to run for one year, and its primary focus will continue to be raising awareness among men and boys about SGBV, promoting access to justice and hygiene for vulnerable women and girls, and fostering behavioral change.
Kumba commended Caritas Freetown’s work in combating SGBV by targeting the root causes of the problem. By working with men and boys,they are contributing to the creation of a more equal and just society. It is imperative that other organizations and communities also prioritize the fight against SGBV and work tirelessly to promote gender equality and justice for all.
In a testament to the impact of the training session, Alex M Sesay, a teacher from the Makorbeh Community, expressed his gratitude for being part of the program. He shared that while they had heard about SGBV before the training provided them with a different perspective on the issue. Alex acknowledged the importance of understanding SGBV and the laws surrounding it to prevent it from happening in their community.
Alex further pledged his commitment to implementing the new perspectives and strategies learned during the training session to prevent SGBV in his community. He also vowed to educate others about the significance of preventing SGBV and the laws that support those efforts.
Alex’s dedication to spreading awareness and implementing his newfound knowledge is a shining example of how training sessions like these can inspire individuals to take action and drive positive change in their communities. The impact of this training session goes beyond its duration, leaving a lasting imprint on the community and reinforcing the importance of gender equality and justice for all.
It must be noted that in many communities around the world, the saying holds true that men and boys are often the perpetrators of Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV). However, the winds of change are blowing, and organizations like Caritas Freetown, in partnership with Manos Unidas, are taking significant steps to combat SGBV and promote access to justice and hygiene for vulnerable women and girls.