In times of crisis, setting up safe and confidential systems so that survivors of GBV can stay, be it with family or in other undisclosed locations is an emergency response overlooked in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon despite the increase in GBV cases due to the Anglophone crisis.
According to a study carried out by International Rescue Committee, more than 85% of respondents said women and girls experience rape, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence, denial of resources/opportunities, psychological abuse, physical violence, and early marriage. More than 70% have expressed an increase in security concerns affecting women and girls and a noticeable increase in reported rape cases since the start of the crisis.
Women and girls are facing or have faced psychosocial abuse: in Limbe subdivision 54 %, in Tiko 50 % and Kumba 73 %. Fifty percent of respondents confirmed that women and girls are facing psychological and emotional abuse. 58% of respondents stated that most survivors do not tell or seek assistance when they experience violence because they think that people will not believe them. Girls and young women aged 15 to 35 are more exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation than older women; 52% of responders stated this concern.
Bridging the gap
South West – To provide shelter for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) survivors in the Southwest region, Martin Luther Jr. King Memorial Foundation (LUKMEF) in partnership with UNFPA has opened a safe house for women and girls known as the “Hope center” that serves as a one-stop center with all the services needed by the ladies.
The Hope Center is a temporary 20-bed capacity center designed to make survivors feel safe again and rebuild their capacity by offering them mental-psychosocial therapy, training on income-generating activities, health services including a playground for children and legal referral (if needed).
These women are trained on how to produce Aloe Vera medicated soaps, beads, cloths and sandals made with beads to empower them economically.
“This training also serves as a healing activity as it takes their minds away from their problems while drowning them in the quest for a new life after gaining new skills here. We bring in professionals in the field of hairdressing and tailoring are invited to the center to train those interested,” said Franka Egbe Arrey, a case worker with Lukmef.
“Together with our partners, the center gives set up kits (materials) to the ladies at the end of their training so they can be independent,” said Julita Bocheti, representative of UNFPA.
The center has trained community mobilizers that sensitize the public on GBV and identify cases that need temporal shelter.
North West – The CBC Health Services recently launched its One-Stop-Shop at UP Station in Bamenda to accommodate Gender-Based Violence survivors for three days while competent services are being sought.
Funded by UNFPA, the center, first in its kind in the region, is designed to provide all health services, psycho-social therapy and legal assistance, making it a one stop shop.
Josephine Nsono, Child Protection Officer and Gender-Based expert says the center is a safe space for survivors to cool off for few days before being referred to other partners where they will receive economic empowerment through income generating activities.
“At the medical service, emergency contraceptives and post-exposure prophylaxis will be administered to survivors of sexual violence to make sure they don’t end up with HIV (Human Immune Virus) and other related concerns. The social work service will provide psychological and psychosocial support, while the legal service is there to ensure that survivors access justice as well as bring perpetrators to book,” she said.
Njume Pamela, Gender-Based Violence expert at UNPFA Northwest says the crisis in the region has led to an increase in the cases of GBV, which calls for immediate action and urgent response.
“So this One-Stop Shop is one of the response actions to the alarming rates of GBV while helping survivors to seek available services. This will go a long away to help them to come out of the difficult experiences and develop positive coping mechanisms to live a normal life in the society,” she said.
“Besides the crisis, the enclave nature of some localities in the region further exposes vulnerable groups such as women, persons with disabilities and children to various forms of abuse. Therefore, the One-Stop-Shop is indeed a stitch in time,” detailed Pamela.
The One-Stop-Shop is a good practice in service-delivery which involves bringing together services in one location, especially to domestic and sexual violence survivors who are often in need of holistic care.
The uniqueness of the One-Stop-Shop is an accommodating space for survivors in life-threatening conditions to rest while the legal staff processes a restraint.
By Maikem Emmanuela Manzie