The Community of Practice (CoP) on violence against women and girls in collaboration with funders on Thursday 4th November 2019 engaged stakeholders to raise awareness and develop an affirmative action plan on how to end rape in Sierra Leone at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Aberdeen. The engagement was part of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) under the theme “to end rape culture we must create a consent culture.” According to the Director of Gender in the Ministry, Charles Vandi, “We should be very mindful with regards to the issues of consent, children can’t give consent.” He mentioned that the culture of silence has been a major setback in order to tackle gender-based violence. The Program Facilitator, Amie Kandeh, stressed, “We must end sexual violence in Sierra Leone.” She maintained that there is no one way approach in solving such a problem. The Coordinator for Women’s and Girls Protection Empowerment under the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Janette Garber, said CoP consists of both local and international organisations that want to see an end to gender-based violence. She said the essence of the gathering is to raise awareness about the issues of consent, so that concrete action plans could be mapped out by the participants at the end of the process. According to the Ambassador of Ireland, Lesley Ni Bhriain, “Sexual and gender-based violence is rooted in gender inequality, which reflects and reinforces inequalities between women and men. The social, human and economic cost of gender-based violence constitute a huge obstacle to economic and social development in Sierra Leone.”
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The President of Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights and Social Justice (LAWYERS), Fatmata Sorie, said “we need equality for all women and girls are the most vulnerable.” Sorie said there is no definition in the law books of Sierra Leone with regards to consent, which sometimes makes it very difficult to know where to draw the line. She said children lack the capacity to give consent. She said stigmatization is one issue that must be handled. Stigma is not only on the victims but also on the people that want to come forward. She called on Government for a whistle blower policy, which will protect witnesses. She said services for sexual offence victims are hard to reach noting that to some extent it is not forthcoming. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is an annual international campaign from 25 November to 10 December.
By Mohamed J. Bah
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