Friday, March 7, 2008

Training on Domestic Violence for NGOs

Mini-Report/Reflections on

NGO Training on the Domestic Violence Act

Facilitated by The Ark Foundation

by Akofa Anyidoho

Programme Administrator

WE RPC-Ghana Hub

The Ark Foundation organised a two-day workshop from 4th to 5th March, 2008, to sensitise NGOs and related organisations on the Domestic Violence Act, 2007, Act 732 (DV Act). The workshop started at about 9:20 am, after prayer, with an introduction of Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, Executive Director of the Ark Foundation. Angela did a step by step explanation of the sections of the DV Act, especially highlighting the sections that have been noted by the general public as controversial.

Following Angela’s presentation, attendees broke for lunch. After lunch, the gathering was divided into 3 groups to discuss issues and laws that the participants considered relevant to the characters defined in a case study. After presentations and ensuing discussions, Hilary Gbedemah facilitated an interactive discussion on other laws that affect women, in light of the gaps we have in our existing laws. Such laws deal with issues such as widowhood rites, female genital mutilation, defilement, spousal inheritance, among others.

We learnt, primarily, the different agencies that are required by law to actively work on DV cases and issues, the second day. Ensuing discussions, implicated that the government agencies, especially, do not have the training, resources and financial backing to deal with DV cases. It was both frustrating and challenging to know that the government agencies, NGOs, and individuals have a lot of work to do.

With the view that NGOs, particularly, are heavily involved in empowerment, development and rehabilitation of the human being, in the final part of the workshop, we were given basic counselling skills, needed to help a victim of a domestic violent act who seeks us as the first point of assistance.

For me, the workshop was very informative. Although I had read and discussed in the classroom the DV Bill (at that time-2005), it was very insightful, when the sections of the Act were explicated, and especially by a lawyer and a person who is part of the National Coalition on Domestic Violence Legislation in Ghana. Consequently, I appreciated very much Angela’s historical and socio-political responses to some of the seemingly controversial sections of the DV Act.

Granted that most reported cases involved women and children being at the receiving end of domestic related abuse, thus they need counselling, shelter and rehabilitation, I think that although provisions have been made in the DV Act for counselling for perpetrators, much attention has not been given to them. Perpetrators (men or women) also need serious counselling, especially, as it were, “repentant” ones, who genuinely seek help and those who may be at the mercy of chemical imbalances in their biological system. Another participant and I expressed our concern for perpetrators at the workshop.

Part of my frustration with the “system” is the socio-cultural conventions and gendered stereotypes passed on to the next generation. It is no wonder boys grow up as men assuming wife beating and other forms of violence against women and children are acceptable. My revolution is for mothers and willing fathers to train their boys and girls, at the basic level, to respect all people no matter the sex of the person. Although subtle and can’t be measured, we could have men in our society who respect women in the future.

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