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Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence


Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of families and communities, and they improve prospects for the next generation. Despite evidence demonstrating the centrality of women’s empowerment to realising human rights, reducing poverty, promoting development and addressing the world’s most urgent challenges, gender equality remains an unfulfilled promise.

UNFPA highlights gender issues to gain wider attention and promote legal and policy reforms and gender-sensitive data collection. UNFPA works to end gender-based violence (GBV), including traditional practices that harm women and girls, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. UNFPA also raises awareness of women's strengths, vulnerabilities and needs in a variety of situations, including in humanitarian emergencies, and the effects of climate change and migration. It recognises the rights, perspectives and influences of men and boys and seeks to involve them in promoting gender equality and improving reproductive health.

UNFPA supported the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in strengthening stakeholder engagement in GBV prevention and response. The stakeholders comprised Regional Gender-Based Violence Coordination Committees, social workers, the Family Support Unit of Sierra Leone Police, District Education Officers, guidance counsellors and community learning centre coordinators, in Bombali, Port Loko, Kenema and Bo districts. The training equipped committees to coordinate and enhance the referral pathways for GBV victims/survivors to access services in their localities.

In 2019, quarterly radio discussion programmes on GBV prevention and response were held in Pujehun, Moyamba, Kambia, Port Loko, Kailahun and Tonkolili districts. Through the radio discussion programmes,funded by UNFPA,  the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs disseminated key messages on GBV to approximately 30 per cent of community members through radio coverage in the respective districts.

A total of 120 adolescent girls and young women were supported with livelihood skills for self-reliance in three districts (Kailahun, Kono and Freetown) for GBV prevention and other forms of harmful practices that they had been exposed to. They were provided with training materials together with sexual and reproductive health  and GBV information which enhanced their knowledge and reduced their vulnerability to harmful practices, while their unmet needs for family planning and reproductive health information were also addressed. Out of the 120 that graduated, 40 were provided with start-up kits to form cooperative groups within their communities to maximize income generation and improve skills service retention for communities prone to GBV.

UNFPA worked in partnership with the Rainbo Initiative to provide services to victims and survivors of GBV. Eighteen Rainbo Initiative Staff (five Centre Managers, five Psychosocial Counsellors, five Field Liaison Officers and three Programme Staff) were trained on paralegal skills and the core concepts of GBV to be better equipped to provide the appropriate care and services to the victims and survivors. Staff at Primary Health Units were also trained (49 in Bo and 44 in Makeni). Through this support, with Rainbo Initiative providing free medical certification for litigation, 109 survivors accessed justice and 26 cases were successfully prosecuted. In 2019, an estimated 1,785 survivors of GBV were reached through clinical, psychosocial and legal services.

Male engagement – Husband Schools

The Husband School model supported by UNFPA as a male engagement strategy has provided the opportunity and space for men to actively participate in the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. In 2019, UNFPA supported the development of manuals to standardize six sessions in Husband Schools in Bo, Bombali and Port Loko districts. One hundred and fifty husbands were reached with information on sexual and reproductive health and maternal health including family planning services. As a result of this intervention, 17 members of the Husband Schools for the first time agreed to and accompanied their wives to the PHU to access family planning services (six in Kapeteh, four in Binkolo of Bombali, four in Korinbondo, and three in Bagbor district).

Eight fathers in the Husband Schools consented to their sexually active adolescent daughters opting for family planning in Bo district. The use of Male Advocacy Peer Educators (MAPEs) is pivotal to the conduct of these schools. They facilitate the sessions, coordinate the activities of the schools, collect and record data on antenatal/postnatal care referrals, family planning uptake and the number of men accompanying spouses to health units.

As a result of the work of MAPEs the following were achieved:

  • 335 pregnant women were referred to health clinics in three target districts [Bo -121, Bombali - 118, Port Loko - 96) in three months;
  • 162 women and adolescent girls were referred for family planning in three target districts (72 women aged 20+ and 90 girls aged 14–19);
  • 68 men aged over 20  and  37 boys aged 17–19 were referred for sexually transmitted infections in three target districts;
  • 147 men accompanied their pregnant spouses to health clinics;
  • 186 men accompanied their lactating spouses to health clinics.