A three-day basic crisis intervention and Hotline operation training for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence(SGBV) Response Officers and Managers, on Wednesday, opened in Accra.
It was organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), of the Ghana Police Service, the Multi-Party Trust Fund (MPTF) Secretariat and the Canadian Government for about 22 participants.
The participants were made up of Officers of DOVVSU, the Domestic Violence Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), and UNFPA youth fellows assigned to assist in the management of the hotline.
The overall goal was to help managers and operators to understand the concept and practice of crisis intervention via hotlines.
Participants must at the end of the training articulate the context of SGBV in Ghana, effectively demonstrate and apply basic crisis counselling skills, and use basic communication skills to utilize and enhance hotline operation skills.
They must also be able to effectively identify and assess serious gender-based violence issues and facilitate safety planning mechanisms while managing personal and mental health and levels of stress.
Mr Samuel Kyei-Berko, the Executive Director of the Empowerment Institute, who facilitated the training, said the occurrence of epidemics and pandemics such as the COVID-19 outbreak, has illustrated time and time again that beyond the infection rates and deaths due to the infections, there were other dire consequences that societies suffered.
These he said, maybe economically, politically, and socially, and emergency measures such as the closure of schools, restriction of movements and social gatherings, put in place during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, may have contributed to the increase in teenage pregnancies witnessed during the outbreak and after it was over.
Mr Kyei-Berko said many researchers had recognised that alongside the increased number of teenage mothers, domestic violence, child abuse, and other negative reproductive health and rights outcomes had also increased.
He noted that in the wake of COVID-19, incidents of sexual and gender-based violence across the globe had witnessed a dramatic increase, which could be attributed to lockdown and mobility restrictions imposed by heads of states.
Mr Kyei-Berko explained that the same public health interventions implemented to respond to COVID-19, had increased the vulnerabilities of families who were at risk of SGBV, especially domestic violence, due to shelter-in-place policies, he said.
He said Hotlines and helplines provide important access to information and support systems for victims of violence against women and constituted good practice, in the sense that operating at least one 24-hour national emergency telephone line would help provide information, advocacy, support, and crisis counselling to victim and survivors.
The UNFPA, therefore, supported the re-activation of a 24/7 SGBV call helpline service, (0551000900) to respond to and mitigate the impact of incidences of SGBV during the COVID-19 period and beyond, he said.
He said the helpline was available for persons who needed to report cases of abuse, get information about SGBV, domestic violence, and or seek support for themselves or others who were facing any form of abuse.
He stressed that while providing this needed support to victims and survivors, operators of the hotlines must professionally approach their work from a trauma-informed perspective in order not to perpetuate secondary traumatization.
There was also a need for such operators to be versatile in responding to the varied practical needs of victims and survivors as they sought to empower them to be more agentic.