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Supporting Female Victims of Violence

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Thursday, February 11th, 2016
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Advocacy for zero tolerance for all form of violence against women and young girls, is not complete without practical support services for victims. While advocacy promotes the rights of women to leave a violent free life; practical support services protects those rights, when they are infringed upon. There are various forms of practical support services that can be rendered victims of gender-based violence by both individuals and organizations. These range from counselling, to free legal aid, medical assistance, economic empowerment, and shelter.

A victim of gender-based violence can only move on to be a survivor, if she receives timely and appropriate support services immediately after the incident occurred. Delayed and/or inappropriate response will result in secondary victimization.

There are government agencies and non-governmental organizations that render practical support services to female victims of violence. These agencies and NGOs need financial, human, technical and material resources in order to be able to render these services.  Victim support services are very expensive and it is due to this fact that a lot of agencies and organizations either do not render support services or they do so shabbily.

How can we move from wringing our hands about the raising rates of violence against women, to actually doing something? How can you support female victims of gender-based violence? We can all do something and we should. Below are some ways you can help:

  1. Partnership: Your company can decide to work with such agencies and NGOs as part of your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to provide funding support or donate items (your products for instance) on the organization’s wish list that would help deal with the practical needs of victims. For instance an oil company can commit to donating petrol/ diesel or engine oil monthly. A telecoms company can pledge a free hot line to ease administrative costs related to communicating with victims.
  1. Volunteering: You can sign up to volunteer your time and skills in various programmes of the organization such as advocacy, counselling, legal aid, skills acquisition training, sensitization and so on. Legal aid especially is very expensive and as such a law firm or lawyer that commits to providing pro-bono services on some number of cases will be supporting victims greatly.
  2. Donation of Clothing, food Items and other products. Women running away from abusive relationships and environments often do not remember to pack a suitcase or carry food stuff. Their major pre-occupation at the time is running for dear life. Thus a lot of organizations have to provide victims with these items, especially if they have to be accommodated in the shelter. Organizations can also donate their products which could be used directly by victims and the organisations helping them.
  1. Fund-Raising Events. Money is of essence in providing support services. Organizations, associations or groups can support victims by organizing fundraising events such as garage sales, bazaars, and seeking donations from corporate organizations and individuals. You can also help in developing/designing donation boxes to be placed at strategic locations such as churches, offices, stores, and malls. This will enable people drop their widow’s mite in support of female victims of gender-based violence or violence against women.
  1. Supporting Legal Reforms. This is another way female victims of violence can be supported. Most organizations in rendering practical support services such as legal aid to victims, come to the realization that some laws do not adequately protect women from violence and they decide to embark on legislative advocacy – legal reforms. Organizations and individuals such as legislators can support this process by sponsoring the drafting of laws and advocacy efforts.
  1. Providing Referrals. As a neighbour, friend, relation, or colleague, you can support victims by providing referrals. This means giving appropriate information on where a victim can or should go to after an act of violence has taken place. Information (knowledge) is wealth. The appropriate information given a victim at the right time would go a long way in ensuring that justice is gotten.

As a child growing up in a family of six (6) girls and one (1) boy, I neither knew nor experienced discrimination and violence; and as such I felt every family was just like mine, filled with love and respect for one another. My father however brought up his girls with two guiding principles. First, you can only be treated in a way you permit people to treat you. Secondly, do not create artificial ceilings for yourself. You can be anything you want to be in life for as long you set your mind at it, and work towards it. However, if you find yourself in an abusive relationship, you can get the help you need. Do not suffer in silence.

Josephine Effah-Chukwuma is the Executive Director of Project Alert on Violence Against Women. They offer a full range of services to survivors of gender based violence, including running a shelter known as Sophia’s Place in Lagos, Nigeria. 

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