Thursday, March 28, 2013

Stopping Sexual Violence at the Source

With UK Foreign Secretary William Hague’s recent visit to Uganda, attention has been focused on ending sexual violence against women, especially in war-torn Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. But while Hague attempts to tackle violence in war, those close to the problem say that his approach is too narrow.  As Geoffrey Dennis argues in The Guardian, violence is not simply an effect of war, but a result of blatant societal inequality between men and women. Through his work with Care International, Dennis has seen the devastating effects of post-war sexual violence.  The best way to stop the violence, he says, is not simply punishing the men who inflict it, but empowering women to come forward after an attack. “In the immediate aftermath of an attack…a woman needs medical attention and psycho-social support. Once these are supplied, she needs financial stability to get on with her life and legal advice to take her case to the authorities, without fear of reprisals from the men involved.”  While high-level diplomacy can bring these issues to light, it is the work on the ground that best supports abused women and spreads attitudes of intolerance of violence throughout villages.
Through the Maison Shalom (Burundi) and Rosy Touch (Nigeria), Friends of Humanity aims to tackle sexual violence at the grassroots level. The Maison Shalom provides assistance to sexually-abused women, particularly young girls, through access to shelter, physical and psychological health care, legal aid, and education. Additionally, Maison Shalom strives to reduce the taboo of sexual violence by assisting the girls in reconnecting and reintegrating into their communities. By educating and empowering young women, Maison Shalom helps them to overcome traumatic experiences and resume leading a life without stigma or fear.
In Nigeria, Friends of Humanity supports Rosy Touch, whose efforts are directed at informing rural women of their rights in order to reduce marginalization and the gender gap between women and men that foster pervasive discrimination and domestic violence. By educating women of their societal rights, Rosy Touch hopes to strengthen their socio-economic capacities and prevent acts of sexual violence and discrimination before they occur. Additionally, Rosy Touch trains the women who participate in their workshops to replicate programs in their own communities. Through community-based efforts at spreading awareness and intolerance of sexual violence, the problem can be addressed, and stopped, at the root level.

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