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Regional News of Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Source: edward a. ken-zorre, contributor

Empowering the Girl-Child beyond SGBV constraints

The initiative is to support schools and communities to curtail sexual and gender-based violence The initiative is to support schools and communities to curtail sexual and gender-based violence

In Ghana, measures have been taken to curtail sexual and gender-based violence including the Domestic Violence Act (Act 732), which seeks to address all forms of violence against women and girls. Yet, Ghana's statement at the 57th Session of the United Nations Commission on the state of women revealed that 14% and 52% of girls in school are victims of sexual abuse and gender-based violence respectively.

These estimates may be far less than what actually persists, as violence against women and girls remain a largely hidden problem (sensitive issue) that only a few females dare to openly discuss. This calls for timely and more robust measures to tackle violence against women and girls.

The Equal Rights and Opportunities Project (EROP)

The Equal Rights and Opportunities Project (EROP) launched on January 27, 2021, at the East Mamprusi Municipality of the North-East Region is one of the recent and robust interventions which seeks to eliminate the numerous human rights challenges of women and girls in five selected communities (Gambaga, Langbinsi, Gbangu, Sakogu, and Nalerigu).

The project is being implemented by Savana Signatures as a Member of the Ghana SRHR Alliance (GH Alliance), Africa Centre for Human Rights and Sustainable Development (AfCHuRSD), and WOMEN IN NEED (WIN) with funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ghana.

As part of the project strategies, community members and leaders, religious leaders, teachers, and students were brought together from the five selected communities and trained on protective mechanisms and empowering the girl-child by providing her opportunities and a safer environment to thrive.

When the girl-child is empowered, her dream materializes

Cynthia Ayamdavla, a student of the Gambaga Girls Junior High School, during the training said, she thought issues like rape and forced marriages happening in her community are limited to the community members to handle.” Perpetrators of SGBV cases in my community do not face justice because such cases are usually handled between the victim and the perpetrator’s families instead of involving social justice institutions.

“I did not know I could involve social justice institutions such as the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit or call the Sexual Health Education Plus (SHE+) for help,” she added. Cynthia is now a member of the EROP support clubs formed under the EROP project in schools in the North-East Region. Her dream is to become an engineer.

Vincentia A. Anokanko, a student of the Gambaga Girls Junior High School lauded the initiative and expressed optimism of achieving her dream of becoming a lawyer. “I can now protect myself from SGBV by reaching out to the DOVVSU or SHE+ for help. I will have a sound mind to study and attain my dream without any abuses that could truncate it.”

She thanked Savana Signatures for helping them form student clubs that would empower them and other girls to defend their rights in their schools and communities.

Call for collaboration

During the training, the East Mumprusi Municipal Guidance and Counseling Coordinator, Rev. Grace Ato Wuni, called for regular meetings between parents, community leaders, and teachers on issues of SGBV. This, according to her, will stimulate dialogue about the need to collectively fight SGBV and support the girl-child to achieve her dreams.

“There is the need to have SGBV dialogue that targets both genders, however, emphasis should be on the girl-child including empowering her to stand up against abusers, as well as make informed decisions,” she said. On her part, more girls are dropping out of school than boys because of child marriages and unplanned pregnancies, hence the need to pay more attention to girls.

Sustainability

The initiative culminated in the formation of the EROP Support Clubs consisting of diverse stakeholders. These support clubs are stationed in the selected communities to respond to issues of SGBV, as well as support schools and communities to fight the menaces.

Shaibu Abdulai, the Headmaster Gbangu JHS said, his school has been bedeviled with issues of SGBV as they experience an increase in school dropouts among girls due to forced marriages. “I often come to school and hear about some of my students not continuing their education because they have been given out for marriage.

“The EROP Support Clubs formation is timely and would help us prevent these menaces, there is no fear when the school has the backing of all stakeholders,” he added.

He called on the Ghana Education Service to help them adequately resource the guidance and counseling units in schools to aid them to succeed.

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