Pres. Bio Launches One-Stop Centres

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President Julius Maada Bio

By Amin Kef Sesay

In line with the Government’s commitment and reliable support in fighting sexual and gender-based violence in the country, His Excellency President Maada Bio has on Thursday 9th July, 2020 launched One-Stop Centres which will provide one-stop locations for multi-sectorial response services that support survivors of rape and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).

“I am proud that we are early adopters of the concept in Africa. We are the second country to adopt One Stop Centres for SGBV response and one of only nine countries in the entire Africa. I am pleased that the six pilot centres will provide one-stop locations for multi-sectoral response services that support survivors,” he said.

He said he was particularly happy to learn that the initiative would ensure confidentiality while offering psychosocial counselling, free medical examination and treatment, legal support, and access to safe homes and other referral pathways.

“I acknowledge the recent media furore over the establishment of a Presidential Task Force to advice on rape and SGBV. At a point, it was a good idea. But the issue of SGBV is so serious that an ad hoc, problem-solving approach is inadequate to address its full implications for inclusive and equal rights, inclusive education and health, inclusive and equal access to opportunity, and inclusive development.

“So late in 2019, I decided instead to set up a stand-alone Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs with focused political leadership and a full complement of professional staff who would advise the presidency and national government on gender, draw up appropriate legislation, coordinate partnerships, collaborate across ministries and with international and local partners, engage community stakeholders, make and implement policies, monitor and evaluate programmes, and do even much more. This is far more than an ad-hoc advisory task force,” he recalled.

President Bio further noted that even with the myriad of problems they tackled head-on every day, government’s focus was to provide a more permanent fix for SGBV because the future of the nation depended on women, constituting 51 per cent of its population.

“We want to make it easier for survivors to receive the highest quality of medical treatment and care, psychosocial support and rehabilitation, and simplified access to justice. So the standard operating procedures should reinforce productive professional relationships among staff from various sectors. Services must be coherent and of the same standards at all times and the centre must be truly one-stop in organisation and operation.

I am also pleased with the supportive monthly monitoring and supervision model proposed by the ministry. As I have noted, be assured (development partners, Ministry officials, staff, fellow citizens) that my Government will continue to fully support all progressive legislation and policies on SGBV. ONE STOP CENTRES I expect that the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs will sustain engagement with development partners and various sectors of government on maintaining inclusive management committees for these One Stop Centres. Those committees, I would expect, will maintain standards of care, advice the Ministry and Government where necessary, and support effective operations at the centres,” he intimated.

Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manti Tarawalli, said that the ultimate goal of the centres was to ensure that survivors no longer had to go to the police stations to report cases of SGBV, adding that that singular action would improve on the quality of statement and set the stage for thorough investigations.

Executive Director for UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, commended the President and Government of Sierra Leone for the launch of the initiative, saying that it was another step that marked progress. She said the centre was a clear indication of the urgent need to tackle rape as a weapon of war against women and girls. She also thanked the President for his efforts to make sure that perpetrators faced the law.

UN Resident Coordinator, Sunil Saigal, congratulated the government for the development in the middle of a difficult situation. He said that the establishment of the facility had been a pressing priority in the efforts to improve on the conditions of women and girls in the country, including addressing the need for access to justice, medical, legal and other support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

He noted that the move was one of several important initiatives that had been taken by the government to address issues of women and girls and assured of UN’s support to the prevention of women and girls against all forms of violence in the country.

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