The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has commenced a training programme for counselors to support survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) via a virtual platform called the “Boame App”.
The voluntary counselors are made of personnel from varied organisations and fields including; legal, media, health, Civil Society Organisations, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, and the UNFPA among others.
The ‘Boame App’ found at the google play store connects users or victims directly to the “Orange Support Centre” and the Boame professional support via calls or text messages.
The UNFPA in collaboration with the Domestic Violence Secretariat, of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, earlier, launched a toll free line ‘0800 111 222’ dubbed, the ‘Orange Support Centre’ for victims of SGBV to call and seek support and advice.
Mr Samuel Kyei-Berko, Founder of The Empowerment Institute, said most of the counseling sessions were going to be virtual, and admonished the counselors to be good listeners, honest and trustworthy, let clients talk more, respect and care for the clients, maintain confidentiality and empower them to solve their own problems to avoid dependency.
He also asked them to avoid advising and being judgmental as victims might be willing to tell all their stories only when counsellors were not judgmental and entreated them to advise clients on their medical and legal rights.
“In the course of exercising your duties as a counselor, expect people who are nervous, talk very little, talk too much, exaggerate, are too calm, very angry, hysterical, silent and don’t act as they might expect them to,” he said.
Mr Kyei-Berko said vulnerable people might not always avoid violent incidents, hence prudent for everyone to use variety of strategies to ensure safety.
They include; watching out for whether doors, windows, stairwells were safe for usage to escape violence, keeping purse and keys in place where one could get them to leave quickly, and telling neighbours about the violence and requesting that they called the police, if they heard suspicious noises from the potential victim’s house.
He advised parents and guardians to teach their children to use the phone to contact the police and adopt a code word with their children or friends to be able to call for help during such times.
“Decide where you will go if you have to leave home, even if you don’t think there will be another violent incident and keep a crisis line telephone number with you, or memorise the number,” he advised.
Dr. James Clayman Dakyi, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, mentioned physical assault, trafficking and slavery, infanticide, honour killing and maiming as some physical types of gender-based violence, saying it also had emotional forms such as abuse and humiliation, confinement/isolation, intimidation and threats and social exclusion ostracism based on sexual orientation.
He said there were also forms of economic gender based violence such as forcing someone to work against his or her will, denial of household money for expenses even when available, unsolicited taking of money, control of belongings and spending decisions, denial of the right to work, to food and basic necessities and education for women and children.
Dr. Dakyi cited forced marriage, sexual exploitation/forced prostitution, survival sex, rape and marital rape, sexual partner hiding HIV status from the other, penetration with objects against a person’s will, acts of unwanted sexual comments or physical contact and child sexual abuse, defilement and incest as some of the sexual gender based violence acts.
To control SGBV, Dr Dakyi said it needed the concerted effort at every level of the society right from the home, community, educational, health and judicial systems and on top of that, a government with the political will.