The Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs in partnership with Purposeful has on Tuesday 14th March, 2023 at the sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women concluded a successful event that discussed Sierra Leone’s successes in the prevention and response to SGBV.
In her statement, the Hon. Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs Madam Manty Tarawalli said in 2018, Sierra Leone was averaging 4000 cases of rape with 90% of the cases being children. To mitigate that the Minister said, the country put in place the Sexual Offences Act 2012 and its amendment in 2019, with stringent penalties. She added that the Domestic Violence Act 2007 also addresses violence against women.
Hon. Minister Manty Tarawalli said to implement the Sexual Offences Act, the Ministry has developed – a SGBV Response Strategy, a SGBV Prevention Strategy, a Partnership Strategy on SGBV and SGBV Coordination Strategy. She said the Ministry has established a toll-free line and in partnership with Rainbo Initiative established One Stop Centres across all districts providing Free Comprehensive Survivors centred services in response to SGBV. Among other successes, Hon. Manty Tarawallie highlighted the Special Offences Court that fast track cases, adolescent sexual and reproductive hubs, integration of sexuality education into basic education curriculum, the male involvement strategy, and District GBV steering committees across all districts.
The Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, H.E Diene Keita, said Sierra Leone’s Human Capital Development focuses on girls and that speaks volume. While she commented on the importance on a forensic lab for SGBV, she said in other countries “some judges have not been able to enforce the laws because they don’t have the evidence”, they don’t have a lab but SL has without a lab. She affirmed her commitment to Government. “We will mobilize everything that is important including technical expertise to support you,” she said.
Madam Rebbeca Khalil, SGBV Response Coordinator, Rainbo Initiative said since 2003 they have provided medical, treatment and psychosocial support to over 45,000 women and girls. She said they have been working with the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs in providing response services to SGBV survivors. She commended the strides taken so far by the Ministry. She said to further strengthen response at district levels – building coherent messaging by services providers is important. She also noted limited knowledge on the GBV laws in communities, and the need for improved support to SGBV survivors including additional safe homes.
The Co-Founder and CEO of Purposeful, Chernor Bah, applauded the Government for strides taken in addressing SGBV. “When I reflected on all the things I wanted to see done in the right direction, I have to come here as an activist and say kudos to the Government,” he said. Mr. Bah also spoke on the Survivors Solidarity Fund, a local initiative to support SGBV survivors through the Rainbo Initiative which he said raised over $100,000.
Minister of Social Welfare, Hon. Baindu Dassama-Kamara, spoke on the Social Protection Policy her Ministry is currently working on that will further protect women and girls.
A delegate from Kenya who attended the event, asked the Minister of Gender, Hon. Manty Tarawalli, to share with other African countries the strategy that has encouraged women and girls to report SGBV cases. She said in Kenya reports of SGBV cases is still low.