Understanding Culture
Protecting Human Rights
A. Obaid

UNFPA Executive Director
Gender Equity Human Rights

Sierra Leone

Laying the groundwork

Starting off right
Bulding in sustainability
Caring for the individual
The "Whole" person
Safety nets
Service providers
Gaining support through advocacy
The Projects

Consider the whole person
A survivor of violence has multiple needs, which begin with but extend well beyond medical care. Frequently she requires assistance in finding shelter and legal aid, and a set of new skills through which she can become economically self-reliant and break free of an abusive relationship. Restoring a womans sense of self-worth through counselling is all-important, since women commonly share a sense of shame and guilt after violent abuse. A recent survey in Mexico, for example, found that 59 per cent of women believe they are somehow responsible for sexual violence, regardless of their relationship with the perpetrator. Accumulated aggression towards women victims of violence is demonstrated at many levels. For women seeking help, this often manifests as endless bureaucratic procedures or other obstacles they are unable to face. Each component of a project should promote a womans general well-being. In Sierra Leone, girls and women who have been traumatized by war, through abduction, abuse, exploitation or violence at the hands of warring factions, are offered counselling and psychosocial support. Many of them have resorted to commercial sex as a means of survival. Training in practical skills, supplemented by classes in reading, writing and arithmetic, offer these young women the possibility of alternative livelihoods. They are also coached in life skills, such as effective communication, to better negotiate the challenges of adulthood. Basic survival is not neglected: The project provides a daily meal for those in need and free treatment for sexually transmitted infections and simple ailments. After graduation, the young women receive start-up kits to launch their own businesses.

There was so much need to reach out to the girls, to empower them and give them hope. We realized that they needed food, counselling, clothes, skills and much more.

Director, Women in Crisis Movement, Sierra Leone


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