By Ndey Sowe
Paradise Foundation Initiative (PFI), formerly Paradise Foundation, on Thursday 17th November 2022, launched the ‘SpeakOut’ campaign to encourage reporting and prevention of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
People who experience gender based violence in the Gambia, may suffer from different human rights violations. However, they enjoy the right to life, protection from degrading treatment, freedom from discrimination and the right to safety and security. Premised to champion and promote gender violence free society, the campaign slogan “SpeakOut”against Sexual and Gender Based Violence by calling ‘1313’, is aimed at bringing protection, hope and healing for victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
Fallu Sowe, the Executive Director of the Network Against Gender Based Violence, said the overall incident of sexual and gender-based violence, specially domestic violence has increase from 26% in 2013 to 48% in 2019 and 2018 respectively.
“This is a huge increase that we need to pay attention to because it is telling us that a lot of our women and our girls are suffering, most of them in silence,” Sowe disclosed.
Around the globe, millions of people suffer gender-based violence, women and girls being the most affected.
The World Health Organization (WHO) records that 1 in 3 women globally has experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lives.
In the Gambia, the prevalence of gender based violence has become pervasive with devastated social impacts.
The Gambia also has domestic and International legal obligations to combat sexual and gender-based violence such as the Women Act, Domestic Violence Act, Children’s Act, The 1997 Constitution of The Gambia, and the Sexual Offences Act.
Neneh Touray, the Deputy Director of the Directorate of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment who spoke on behalf of the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, said: “It is our responsibility to not only popularised the 1313 help line but, when there are issues of gender based violence, we should take our rightful positions in our institutions, communities, households and in the country in general.”
The Gambia’s 2019- 2020 Demographic and Health Survey reports that 41% of marriage women between the age 15 to 49 have experienced forms of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners.
Isatou DEA Sawaneh, the Chairperson of the Women’s Council, said it is the people who know you, who will commit violence against you.
“The stranger does not come straight to your house to do evil to you. People who know you and are trusted members of the family are the ones who will hurt you,” she said.
Aisha Baldeh, the Executive Director of Paradise Foundation Initiative, added that the way the family setup is when a husband beats a wife or divorces her; it’s to do with the family.
“We launch this campaign to speak out, yes we need to speak out because there is lot of violence and harmful practices in our communities,” Ms Baldeh outlined.
She added that her institution’s overall goal is to continue supporting the government to achieve its national and international commitment to promoting gender equality and human rights.
However, she expressed concern about the increasing gender based violence in the Gambia and called for an end to the culture of silence to put an end to such violence.
To tackle the culture of silence, the Paradise Foundation Initiative and its partners, including UNFPA joined efforts to launch the ‘SpeakOut’ campaign with a toll free helpline 1313, which only focuses on SGBV related calls and services, hence the need to popularised the purpose of the 1313 GBV help line.
Following its existence in 2020, the GBV Help Line, being the first fully operational toll free gender based violence helpline in The Gambia. The GBV helpline 1313 has registered over 10,000 calls from the period of July, 2020-June 2022, and of which over 500 are sexual and gender-based violence related cases.
The helpline also serves as a confidential support system and entry point for women and adolescent girls who need to be listened to, require information and support for being victims of domestic and sexual gender based violence.
SGBV is universally underreported, but it is especially difficult for survivors to speak out in the Gambia’s close-knit and patriarchal society, where victims and perpetrators are often connected.
Other speakers include Ms Ndey Rose Sarr, the UNFPA Country Representative and Ms Fatou Baldeh, the Executive Director of WILL and Ms Isatou Secka, Educationist and Social Justice Activist, all of whom expressed dismay over the high rate of gender based violence in the Gambia and call for an end to the culture of silence.