Sexual and gender-based violence is a challenge that most communities are grappling with. The increasing cases of SGBV, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted the mental, emotional, physical, financial and socio-economic wellness of the people affected.
Nations face the common challenge of surviving their battle-scarred economies as their people drown in deteriorating mental health conditions, struggling to stay afloat.
Most community-based organizations have been formed to salvage the victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, but it would be wise to prevent the occurrence of such fatalities, rather than focusing on dealing with them after they happen.
Sexual and gender-based violence is based on gender norms and unequal power relations that place women at the mercy of men in power. In most circumstances, women are the victims and men the perpetrators. Therefore, it’s prudent to include men in the efforts to curb the rising cases of SGBV.
Women, boys and girls, persons with disabilities and the LGBTQIA+ community are at greater risk in most situations. They need a solid protection network they can rely on for support and safe spaces they can always run to. For example; most lesbians and gays are likely to be subjected to corrective rape in their communities in efforts to ‘cure’ them.
Victims of SGBV are at risk in different places that they happen to be in. At work, in schools, when using public transport, in churches, in shelters that aren’t properly managed, at Internally displaced person camps and regrettably, at home.
Gender-based violence can be perpetuated in different forms that might not manifest physically and raise an alarm. It could be the denial of resources that are vital to the development of a victim, or emotional, sexual, physical and psychological abuse. Most victims might be reluctant to report such cases, because of the lack of confidence and the stigma associated with it. Often, if perpetrated by a person in power, they might suffer degrading consequences.
Organizations need to include community-based protection in their efforts to combat SGBV. The inclusion of all persons, both victims and perpetrators in programs to educate them on the dangers of SGBV could be effective and enforce the change they hope to achieve.
In so doing, they are likely substantively and actively involved in these communities in practices and conversations that will positively change these narratives.
The gains that might be achieved include;
- Putting an end to victim blaming
Victim blaming is the biggest hindrance to the reporting of violence meted out against victims. If people are educated on the magnitude of the words they say and the impact they make, people will be more confident to share their stories and seek all the relevant help needed.
- Promote the reporting on SGBV cases
Including members of the community, people in the administration who might be potential perpetrators, victims and survivors in the sensitization drives will ensure that all members of the community stay vigilant, and report any form of violence.
This will also ensure that community members do not hide or protect a perpetrator because if they know his whereabouts, they’d report them to the relevant authorities.
- Stop the usage of discriminatory language
Different communities still practise the use of mean, dehumanizing language in different capacities.
Most rape victims are called mean names, especially if they are commercial sex workers. Enlightening society on the nature of their work, prioritizing their safety and being mindful of how they treat them will ensure that they remain safe in their communities or localities.
- Learning and understanding the root causes of SBGV
The best way to deal with sexual and gender-based violence is by understanding its root causes and how to deal with them.
Most people aren’t aware of how their words or actions create an enabling environment for SGBV to occur.
Understanding the roles they play, knowingly and unknowingly will be impactful in changing these narratives.
- Critical of situations that happen in the community
People have lost a sense of community to the point that they prefer not to intervene in situations that may arise. However, upskilling these people on why ending SGBV is a collective responsibility will enable them to critique and question circumstances that might occur around them.
- Establishing a safe community network to offer protection to victims
It’s quite unfortunate that victims of sexual and gender-based violence are unsafe at home. Their predators could be family, close family members or neighbours.
It would reduce the number of violence meted out upon women if people reported perpetrators to avoid the possibility of harming another person.
Victims should feel free to report cases.
- Support the development and implementation of an action plan
Communities can uniquely help design the most effective action plan, based on their challenges and recommendations.
Involving them in these procedures ensures that their needs or demands are meant whilst the goal of reducing SGBV is being achieved.
- Review of culture and its biases
Some communities strongly believe in the practice of FGM. Involving the people, by educating them on the dangers and challenges it poses to girls could easily change the minds of a few people, maybe an elder who will take up the role to ensure the practice dies down.
- Empower the community to support its members
Educating a community is equipping them with the knowledge and power that ensures it forges ahead.
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