Col. Mahmoud Tahiru (rtd), Chief of Zung Sangerigu, Northern Region, an advocate for the social norms and behaviour change campaign
Col. Mahmoud Tahiru (rtd), Chief of Zung Sangerigu, Northern Region, an advocate for the social norms and behaviour change campaign

ACTIONAID led project makes strides in ending gender-based violence

Gender-based Violence (GBV) has in recent times hampered global growth severely.

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A World Bank statistic on Africa assert that 42 per cent of women in Eastern and Southern Africa had experienced physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives.

Similarly, a study by the Afrobarometer in November 2023 disclosed that GBV tops the list of important women’s rights issues that citizens say their government and society must address.

This came strongly because nearly half that is 48 per cent of survey respondents cited GBV as their top priority, followed by unequal rights of property ownership and inheritance, 12 per cent.

In Ghana, gender-based violence is seen as a criminal matter.

According to UN Women (2022), one in four women in Ghana has experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a close relation.

In 2020, a total of 16,000 domestic abuse cases were reported by the Ghana Police Service and one reason for this rise in GBV issues has been attributed to deeply entrenched sociocultural norms that among others view women as being subservient to men.

GBV affects not just the survivors but also the well-being and productivity of families and communities. 

Eliminating violence

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) five encourages all countries to eliminate violence against women and girls.

One of the keyways for protecting women and girls from GBV is to equip them with knowledge and skills to be able to know, identify and assert their rights, identify instances of actual and potential violence, and know how to effectively report such instances. 

These are premised on an environment where state actors have the capacity to demonstrate skills, proactiveness and responsiveness to protect women and girls from violence.

This is the basis for the design and implementation of the Transformative Action for Gender Equality (TAGE) Project by ActionAid Ghana in partnership with the Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA) with funding support from the European Union (EU). TAGE is a 30-month (February 2022-July 2024) intervention implemented in 64 communities within eight districts of the Upper East, Northern, Volta and Greater Accra Regions of Ghana.

The project aims at directly impacting the lives of 16,200 men, women, girls and persons with disabilities during its implementation and has currently impacted about two million Ghanaians positively.

Significantly, AAG’s TAGE project aims to achieve three key results, that is women and girls have improved knowledge and increased ability to protect themselves from violence and seek support following threats or incidents of violence; Social norms campaign enable communities of people (including youth, men and boys) to respect women and girls’ rights and provide support to keep them from violence, and state agencies have improved skills and improved proactiveness and responsiveness to protect women and girls from violence.

TAGE has over the past two years worked closely with various stakeholders including community-based structures such as ActionAid Ghana’s Community Based Anti-Violence Teams (COMBATs), Male Allies, Traditional Authorities, Religious Authorities and Youth Leaders in the project locations.

At the district level, ActionAid Ghana’s TAGE project has worked with various notable state actors from the Department of Social Welfare, the Department of Women of the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, and the municipal and district assemblies.

 The project has further engaged media organisations such as radio stations operating within the districts of project implementation and a couple of national TV stations and state actors to keenly discuss national issues such as adequately financing the Domestic Violence (DV) Fund.

 Driving some existing campaigns of gender interest, ActionAid Ghana and other like-minded civil society organisations have in recent times championed and influenced gender-based policies such as the Anti-Witchcraft Bill which was passed on July 27, 2023.

Social norms and behaviour change campaign

In the second year of TAGE project implementation, ActionAid Ghana has focused on changing societal norms through its nationwide social norms and behaviour change campaign aimed at rallying public efforts and support to enable communities, including the youth, men, boys, and community gatekeepers, to openly demonstrate respect for women and girls’ rights and provide support to protect them from violence by raising public awareness of gender-based issues, by using traditional leaders, producing jingles, working with media houses, broadcasting of radio talk shows and broadcasting of short video documentaries.

Closely linked to the nationwide social norms campaign has been the aim to liaise with some state institutions towards ensuring a sustained resourcing of the Domestic Violence (DV) Fund. These include the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service and the Ministry of Health.  

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TAGE facilitated the submission of a joint Memorandum on proposals to the above end to the Ministry of Finance as a move to feed into the 2023 National Annual Planning Process.

Some of the proposals were calls for a yearly National Budget Allocation to the Fund; Early financial transfers to the DV Fund and an Annual Incremental Budgetary Allocation to the Fund.  

Playing watchdog roles

TAGE is happy to have noted that following the above engagements, the 2024 budget presented to Parliament by the Finance Minister on November 15, 2023, saw an incremental jump of the DV Fund from GH₵1,500,000.00 in 2023 to GH₵2,700,000.00 in 2024!

Though we see this as most encouraging, we believe there is more to be done in addressing the other proposals submitted towards building the capacity of state actors to be more proactive in responding to calls to protect women and girls from violence. 

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Challenges  

The TAGE has had to confront some challenges in the pursuit to achieve its set targets so far.  Despite these challenges, the team is poised to execute the activity to the full satisfaction of its donors, stakeholders and beneficiaries.

Some of the challenges encountered are that the behaviour change campaign (BCC) has been characterised by a slow pace of changing perceptions about women’s rights and the role of community members in supporting to keep them safe from violence. 

Also the full implementation of proposals to adequately fund the Domestic Violence Fund remains unfulfilled.

 This has the potential to negatively impact reporting of suffered incidents of violence.

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Another challenge is getting legal firms to agree to provide pro-bono services to women survivors of domestic violence who need legal representation.

Finally, persons with disabilities continue to face challenges in accessing needed services and support.

ActionAid therefore calls on all Ghanaians to join in the campaign towards protecting women, girls and persons with disabilities from violence as well as supporting them to report incidents of violence suffered or witnessed.

 The writer is the TAGE Project Manager, ActionAid Ghana

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