9 August 2011

Gambia: Security Personnel, Opinion Leaders Sensitised On Gender-Based Violence

Nbr — At least 50 participants including security personnel, opinion leaders, and youth were last Sunday sensitised on the effects of gender-based violence and its intersection with HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, by Worldview The Gambia, a consortium on violence against women and girls, at a workshop held in Kerewan, North Bank Region.

Organised in partnership with the Gambia Red Cross Society, and the Gambia Family Planning Association (GFPA), the campaign aimed to empower women and girls at all levels to combat the phenomenon of gender violence, by creating space for public dialogue on violence against women (VAW) and shift popular consciousness towards equal gender relations and prevention of VAW and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

Speaking on the occasion, the regional coordinator of Worldview, Haruna Kuyateh, harped on the importance of the empowerment and protection of the rights of women and girls.

Emphasizing the importance of the workshop, Kuyateh informed the participants that women and girls continue to face all forms of discrimination and violation of fundamental human rights.

He went to state the consortium's aim and objective as generating and strengthening public dialogue on violence against women and girls, and society's commitment to zero tolerance of violence. Violence against women and girls, Kuyateh noted, is a big contributor to death and illness among women, as well as to a host of human rights abuses.

He continued: "Gender-based violence, particularly intimate partner violence, is a leading factor in the increasing 'feminization' of the global aids pandemic. Simultaneously, HIV/AIDS is both a cause and a consequence of the gender-based violence, stigma and discrimination that women and girls face in their families and communities, in peace and in conflict, within and outside of intimate partnerships, and by state and non-state actors."

For his part, the Regional AIDS coordinator for North Bank Region, Ousman Sowe, lauded the Worldview for complementing the efforts of government in the empowerment and protection of women and girls. He noted that violence against women and its intersection with HIV/AIDS is a global concern, and it calls for concerted efforts in enhancing the protection of reproductive health of women and girls.

Sowe explained that women who have experienced physical, sexual, or psychological violence suffer a range of health problems, often in silence. "They have poorer physical and mental health, suffer more injuries, and use more medical resources than non-abused women. Females of all ages are victims of violence because of their limited social and economic power compared with men.

While men also are victims of violence, violence against women is characterized by its high prevalence within the family; its acceptance by society; and its serious, long-term impact on women's health and well-being," he stated.

The NBR AIDS coordinator cited the United Nations' definition of violence against women as 'any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life'.

The police commisioner for North Bank Region, Momodou Sowe, commended Worldview The Gambia for their support to the police in the maintenance of peace and order. He assured that his office would continue to partner with organisations and institutions to protect the rights of women and girls.

"Violence against women in the community," he went on, "needs to halt through advocating public dialogue and call for collective action to raise public awareness".

Commissioner Sowe indicated that physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community include wife battering, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and intimidation, forced treatments and abusive medication, the exploitation and commercialization of women's bodies, and so on.

He then seized the opportunity to call for an end to the culture of silence by the public, while stressing the need to build sound community-police relationship.

He concluded by assuring his office's continuous support in the maintenance of peace and secuirty. Seedy Jagne of the Gambia Family Planning Association echoed similar sentiments, stressing the need for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to protect women and girls.

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