The Ark Foundation, Ghana, a not-for-profit organisation, last Thursday reopened its Domestic Violence (DV) Victims’ Centre, known as the Ark Shelter, to accommodate victims of domestic violence, particularly women and children in Accra.
The facility, which used to accommodate about 25 people, was closed down in 2016 due to the lack of funds, proper security, including others that would help the upkeep of the inmates.
The shelter started operating in 1999 to respond to the needs and rights of women and children, particularly those who fled from domestic violence, such as sexual assaults and other forms of gender based violence.
It became a refuge for providing safe environment for abused women and children who reported such cases to the then Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) of the Ghana Police Service, (now Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit), and other non-state organisations and media houses.
In 2018, the foundation mounted a massive campaign to mobilise funds and other forms of support to reopen the shelter, which will start operating fully in June this year.
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Report cases of abuse
Speaking at a brief ceremony to reopen the shelter, the Executive Director of the Ark Foundation, Ghana, Dr Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, advised abused persons, particularly women and children, not to hesitate to report such abuse to the police.
“If you are being subjected to any form of abuse or see anybody going through same, regardless of who they are, do not hesitate to report to the rightful authorities such as the police or institutions like ours and we will take it up. If you entertain fear and act reluctantly, you may end up losing your life,” she said.
She said the operation of the facility was capital intensive and, therefore, called for more public support to run the shelter effectively.
“The centre is a home and, therefore, everything you have in your home has to be there; ranging from food, clothing to medical attention. We are ready to accept all forms of donations.
“Let us not leave such issues in the hands of foreigners to handle. We need to take the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda seriously and help ourselves,” she explained.
Dr Dwamena-Aboagye, who is a women’s rights activist, further called for the institution of the Domestic Violence Fund, which, she said, could cushion the operations of the shelter, as well as those provided by other organisations.
For his part, the Supervising Clinical Psychologist at the shelter, Mr Adolf Awuku Bekoe, reiterated the need to support the facility since there was no facility at the moment which was providing such services.
“It is absolutely important that this shelter keeps operating because it cannot be history. Remember that any effort to give back stolen lives to their owners must be encouraged,” he said.
In the late 1990s, when there was a lot of activation on sexual abuse and violence, the Ark Foundation, Ghana, was one of the organisations and women’s rights advocates that led awareness and sensitisation programmes of sexual abuse and violence, and its shelter was then the only one in Ghana taking care of abused women and children.
Since its inception, the foundation’s anti-violence programme, which includes the operation of the shelter, has supported more than 3,000 people.
Furthermore, the foundation has reached out to about two million people with anti-violence education and sensitisation programmes, through outreach campaigns, training, media and community education activities across the country.