Access to Justice with emphasis on Gender Based Violence

Gender Based Violence (GBV) is any act that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (UNESCO 1999:53). Gender Based Violence both reflects and enhances inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. GBV encompasses a wide range of human rights violations including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices.

There are various obstacles in achieving access to justice with emphasis on gender based violence, and they include 1) social exclusion of the most vulnerable groups and communities (girls and women); 2) gender linked poverty in relation to the status of women; 3) economic, social and political tensions surrounding the girl child that have undermined peaceful co-existence and safety nets; 4) inadequate institutional and community mechanisms for handling GBV, especially at the grassroots level; 5) inadequate involvement of victims of GBV in the peace and conflict resolution campaigns; 6) the lack of grassroots based coalitions skilled to empower vulnerable women and children; and 7) inequitable allocation of national resources to issues of gender equality.

Our goal is to sensitize women and girl child community structures, groups, organs, institutions and organizations about issues concerning the justice system. These issues include information about GBV, procedures and principles for accessing the justice system, and avenues of advocacy for policies/laws and programs that disabuse gender inequalities and practices that perpetuate GBV. Through the objectives below, we are confident that we shall achieve our goal by December 2016:

1) Strengthen institutional and community mechanisms in the districts of our operation to effectively handle gender related crimes and offences.

2) Increase awareness and active participation of community structures, groups, organs, institutions and organizations in the districts of our operation to join the campaign against GBV as both a root cause and result of reproductive rights violations.

3) Lobby and advocate for allocations within the national budget for implementing the GBV Act/Law.

We have also laid strategies that will help vulnerable women and girl children have access to justice, especially when it comes to GBV. They are as follows:

- Building capacity of women through training, information sharing and/or exposure to access available legal and social support services.
- Promoting citizen journalism on GBV among grassroots populations.
- Equipping rights holders with skills and knowledge in advocacy and lobbying for the formulation and enforcement of laws and community policies to re-enforce national laws like the Children’s Law that act as a preventive measure of obstetric fistula.
- Lobbying with the Local Council to change the required procedure of acquiring form 9 in order to enable the victim to access treatment immediately.
- Increasing awareness-information dissemination, education and communication about GBV and its effects on the individuals, family and the community as a whole.
- Conducting periodic rapid assessment and operational research on GBV as related to maternal and child health to involve programming and policy formulation.
- Documenting cases of GBV to promote evidence of rights violations.
- Education of community members, especially those in influential positions, to reduce the social acceptance of GBV.

We are employing a number of methods to make certain that victims of abuse and violation of human rights access justice and they include

1. Sensitizing members of Family and Local Courts.
2. Strengthening partnerships with law enforcement officers to act as allies in fighting injustices against vulnerable women and girl children.
3. Collaborating with other human rights activists such as Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP), MIFUMI, Human Rights Defenders Network and other organizations.
4. Empowering survivors/victims to rise up against abuse and violation through holding their leaders accountable, recognizing evil eating up their rights, facilitating exposure trips for victims so that they interact with other victims.

TERREWODE is vigorously engaged in activities to promote access to justice. These activities include facilitating advocacy meetings for creating awareness, carrying out surveys and disseminating the findings, documenting information through audio visuals and case studies and campaigning through various media outlets such as radio and IEC materials. We have produced booklets, newsletters and brochures aimed at creating awareness on human rights and justice.