Stakeholders at a forum in Bolgatanga have called on Government to establish decent safe spaces in the Upper East Region to accommodate and provide health and counseling services to survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
They said the Domestic Violence Act of 2007, Act 732, made provisions for the establishment of shelters for survivors across the country, but only one had been established in Accra.
The said it was imperative for government and other institutions responsible to take urgent steps to set up the shelters and equip them with the required staff to give survivors of SGBV refuge while they pursued justice.
The forum was organized by the Widows and Orphans Ministry (WOM), a Non-Governmental Organization in partnership with Oxfam Ghana and had funding support from the European Union (EU).
It was part of the implementation of a four-year project on the theme, "ENOUGH! Empowering women, girls, boys and men to take positive action in ending sexual and gender-based violence in Ghana, Liberia and Mali."
It brought together people from six communities in Bongo and Nabdam Districts, Chiefs and Queenmothers, Assembly members, and staff of some state institution, including; District Assemblies, Ghana Health Service, Department of Social Welfare and Community Development among others.
Ms Patricia Ayichuru, the Project Officer of WOM, explained that SGBV was still prevalent in many communities and homes in the region, and women and girls continued to be the most vulnerable and victims which affected their growth and development.
She said the victims or survivors often found it difficult to travel long distances to report or find shelter, where they could be saved and receive health and counseling services.
The Project Officer said as part of her outfit's contribution towards addressing the phenomenon, some members of the beneficiary communities were trained as Legal Literacy Volunteers to assist people who were abused to report and seek justice.
"These Legal Literacy Volunteers were trained on some of the laws regarding SGBV, how they can handle some of these issues at the community level and how they can refer or support survivors hoping that when the spaces were provided they can equally use these spaces to support survivors of abuse" she said.
Ms Ayichuru said if such shelters were established and resourced with the necessary staff from the Ghana Health services such as nurses and psychologists, Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) and department of social welfare, they would contribute to rehabilitating abused persons and punish perpetrators to deter others from engaging in the act.
Mr Denis Asolmia, the Nabdam District Health Promotion Officer, said although all the healthcare facilities had adolescent health friendly corners which offered sexual and reproductive health services to young people, it would be good for the safe spaces to be created to assist abused persons.
The community members, who were enlightened on the legal provisions for the establishment of the shelters, identified some old structures and appealed to government and other stakeholders to rehabilitate them for use.
Pognaba Elizabeth Atubga, the Queenmother of Kongo community in the Nabdam District applauded WOM and its partners for the education especially on how they could sustain the spaces when provided and added that it was imperative for adolescents to be taught their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The beneficiary communities included; Balungu, Beo and Vea from the Bongo District, and Kongo, Gundoo and Logri from the Nabdam District.