Gender activists from various Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called for more data on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) to strengthen policies and programmes that were geared towards eliminating the menace.
They also called for increased funding for specific research findings for action; capacity building in quality and regular data collection for both CSOs and governmental agencies providing leadership, as well as strengthening the collaboration between academia and civil society institutions.
The CSOs, including representatives from the Ark Foundation, Women in Law and Development Africa (WiLDAF-Ghana) the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the African Women Development Fund (AWDF), made their call at a forum in Accra organised by the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre, (Gender Centre), as part of activities to mark the 16 Days of Activism against SGBV.
The annual UN global event was part of the activities to encourage active stakeholder involvement in moving from mere words to action by ensuring sustained funding, prompt response to issues, crime prevention, and collecting more data to inform policy and changes on SGBV.
Dr Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, the Executive-Director, the Ark Foundation, in an address, said response to Gender-Based Violence, and Domestic Violence (GBV/DV) in Ghana, could not be isolated from the frameworks that had been accepted as the approaches to addressing and responding to the phenomenon.
She said the National Domestic Violence Policy and Plan of Action (NPPA), framework, had provided almost to the last letter, what was required to be done by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, through the Domestic Violence Management Board and its Secretariat in response to GBV/DV.
However, as long as the Domestic Violence Management Board and its Secretariat were not capacitated through institutional strengthening and accountability, GBV/DV in Ghana, would continue to face the challenges of fragmentation and inadequate, ineffective and inefficient response, she said.
She said response should be integrated, coordinated and survivor-centred and must encompass all relevant services such as crisis response, social welfare services, child services, shelters, the justice system, including police and courts, Legal Aid, health, including psychological health, education, economic empowerment, rehabilitation, perpetrator programs, as well as community traditional and religious support systems.
“There must also be an established way of monitoring and evaluating what goes on in the protection and services provision ‘system’,” she said.
Dr Dwamena-Aboagye said the multi-dimensional nature of GBV/DV work therefore required the application of multiplicity of strategies, with an effective system having features, including being survivor-centred.
They must be carefully planned, structured and coordinated from national policy levels through to the decentralized, with clear leadership at all levels of coordination.
Again, there must be clarity of roles of coordinating and collaborating agencies, as well as a system of accountability and reporting, insisting that binding inter-agency protocols should also be adopted to ensure standardisation and reduction of trauma.
She said certification might become necessary for practitioners and a good referral system should be instituted at the levels of direct services provision for survivors, including the development of common transfer documents to ensure tracking of survivors.
Dr Dwamena-Aboagye said case management at inter-agency agency levels, should also become a routine part of the system, together with the holding of case review meetings, hence an effective system should have data systems, funding, training for service providers on a regular basis, hotlines and service directories, as well as a good monitoring and evaluation framework.
Dr Deda Ogum Alangea from the School of Public Health, University of Ghana, said although some advanced had been made over the years, much more needed to be done, citing the weak enforcement of WHO Guidelines for screening female victims of SGBV, and the fact that women continued to suffer reproductive coercion, some of which had cultural undertones, leading to violations of their fundamental human rights, such as the rights to marry, have children, education and life.
She blamed the police for failing to turn existing data on SGBV/DV into actionable impact, considering the very negligible number of prosecutions.
The current limited statistics was due to unsustainable funding and the lack of political will to drive the expected change, yet Ghana had the capacity to generate the needed resources to produce in-depth evidence to ascertain the level of the problem backed by figures, to support long term actions and programmes for preventing SGBV.
She urged CSOs to “walk the talk” by using the limited data available to push across the barriers, to secure more prosecutions against perpetrators of the menace, thereby encouraging more victims to report.
Mrs Dorcas Coker-Appiah, the Executive Director of the Gender Centre, also spoke about the need to deepen understanding of Gender-Based Violence and Violence Against Women and Girls, and the fact that there had been increased prevalence, especially within the COVID-19 lockdown period, hence the need to provide practical and sound basis for programme review and interventions through the use of relevant qualitative data.