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Northern Region: Sexual, gender-based violence victims get help

BY: Mohammed Fugu

Asana Fuseini (not real name), an 18-year-old young lady in Tamale, was forced into early marriage when she was preparing to write her Basic Education Certifi cate Examination (BECE) in 2020.

A few weeks to the examination, a young man, with the consent of her parents, abducted her into his room and locked her up for a number of days. She was abused severally after she resisted attempts by the young man to have sexual intercourse with her.

One afternoon she managed to escape from captivity and rushed to a police station in Tamale for support. She was issued a medical form to seek treatment at the hospital.

According to the victim, while at the hospital for treatment, a health worker who was attending to her placed a call through the helpline called AGOO SHE+ to seek support for her.

Upon discharge from the hospital, she indicated that offi cials from the helpline supported her with shelter, food and medications. After recovering, Ms Fuseini went back to school to write the BECE and gained admission to the Karaga Senior High School. “In fact, the AGOO SHE+ Helpline team did everything for me, they helped me to fully recover and continue my education. They bought all my school’s prospectus when I got admission to SHS, and they are still helping me, without them I would have dropped out of school,” she said.

Ordeal

The story of Ms Asana Fuseini is not different from that of Rahinatu Salifu (not real name), a 23-year-old level 300 student of the University for Development Studies (UDS), who was reportedly defi led by a cousin when she was 13 years old. Narrating her ordeal to the Daily Graphic, Ms Rahinatu said she was defi led by her 17-year-old cousin at age 13, and that ordeal made her develop psychological complications growing up. According to her, such experience made her develop serious hatred for men, which had impacted negatively on her sexual life.

“I went through the ordeal for about 10 years, at a point I wanted to commit suicide but on second thoughts I stopped. In 2020, I heard about the AGOO SHE+ Helpline and I placed a call through for support,” she stated. She added; “I was taken through several counselling sessions to get over the experience and now I am living a normal life. Now I am feeling very fine.”

AGOO SHE+ Helpline

Asana Fuseini and Rahinatu Salifu are part of a number of young people who had their issues addressed through the AGOO SHE+ Helpline. The platform creates an enabling environment for young people to access information and services on reproductive health as well as provide them the opportunity to directly interact with professionals in the area of health, counselling services and social services.

It engages adolescents, young people and adults from across Northern Ghana and currently offers services in about 10 languages - Dagbani, Hausa, Sissala, Ewe, Twi and Ga, Ga-Dangme, Fante and Mampruli. The platform has a call centre fully equipped with the relevant equipment, with a number of health professionals and psychologists who understand the listed languages manning it. Since it started operation seven years ago, about 11,587 young people and adults have called through the helpline to seek assistance for various issues.

With toll free lines 5100 for MTN and 0800001122 for other networks, the platform, which is being operated by a team of health professionals and psychologists, provides various services including giving information on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) issues to young people as well as assisting them to seek justice and health care. The main objective of the platform is to help break the barriers young people face in accessing basic SRHR and SGBV information and services.

Savana Signatures

It forms part of a project being implemented by Savana Signatures, a non-governmental organisation, with funding support from the Global Affairs Canada and UNICEF. Savana Signatures is a Tamalebased non-governmental organisation with focus on initiating positive change among girls, women, youth and the vulnerable population. It uses innovative solutions to facilitate their reproductive health and rights, quality education and skills development. Currently, it operates in Northern Ghana and parts of the Volta Region.

Successes

In an interview, the Project Coordinator of the AGOO SHE+ platform, Rahana Mohammed, said the helpline had been running for the past seven years, saying that averagely about 15 youth call a day for various forms of assistance. “So, what happens is that, if a person calls to report an issue bordering on rape or defilement, we refer them to DOVVSU to take up the matter. If they call for an issue about menstruation or teenage pregnancy, we counsel them on what they need to know about it, but if the person is not satisfied, we link them up to the appropriate health facility for further counselling and treatment,” she explained.

According to Ms Rahana, male, and female adolescents and adults place calls through the helpline for support and issues which cannot be addressed by the call centre are referred to the appropriate quarters. Aside from rendering the call services to the victims, she indicated that the NGO also assisted them to seekjustice if they were being abused.

“We have been able to assist a number of victims to send their abusers to court; we have many cases pending in the court, while others are still under investigations. “Though the court process delays we are very hopeful justice will be served the victims,” she said.

Scale up Due to the successes chalked up by the platform, Ms Rahana indicated that her outfit intended to scale up the intervention across the country so as to enable all young people nationwide to address their issues. She, therefore, urged the public, particularly young people, to take advantage of the platform to seek solution to issues relating to SGBV and SRH.

Writer’s email: [email protected] graphic.com.gh