As part of the Human Security Project, International Alert Guinea recently held a series of workshops in the town of N’zerekore, in Guinea’s forest region, aimed at reducing sexual violence against women and improving access to justice for women and girl victims. The workshops brought together local organisations (Corps Guineen pour la Paix et le Developpement and Femmes Pour le Developpement Integré et la Promotion Humaine), local community radio stations (Radio Rurale de N’zerekore and Radio Communiautaire Gueckedou), members of the civil society, local police representatives, and facilitators.
During the first workshop, participants discussed topics such as the general concept of gender-based violence (GBV), the identification of core issues of threat to the security of women and girls, and how to mobilise each of the communities involved.
Participants stressed the importance of the role of community animators in providing guidance (shepherding) for abused women and girls, and in mobilising and engaging the communities on core issues that threaten women and girls’ security. Community leaders could therefore be crucial in beginning the process that could lead to the change of knowledge, attitudes and practices around the treatment of women and girls in Guinean society. Taking into account Guinea’s negative record when it comes to working on issues of human rights protection, this is going to be an extremely challenging process, but yet achievable if participants and all involved are committed to achieving change and work together in supporting one another as a network.
The aim of the workshop was indeed for participants to form a network to support women and girls who require assistance for protection against abuses, and for the local organisations and community radios involved in this process to contribute through radio programmes and activities at the community level to raise awareness about the threats to the security of women and girls in each district.
The second workshop was a judicial training aimed at highlighting the importance of providing legal protection for women and girls in Guinean society. Participants were reminded about the many laws that are already in place in Guinea to protect women and girls from sexual violence, but the need for these laws to be effectively put in practice and enforced at the community level was strongly stressed.
The workshop was particularly important as it broke new ground by attempting to make measures for increasing access to justice, protection and psychological assistance for women and girl victims of sexual violence practical.
These workshops offered a rare space for a frank exchange and interaction between government officials and civil society members in Guinea. Unless the whole community decides to work together and collaborate to ensure that justice mechanisms are in place and operating, the entrenched culture of impunity will not be challenged and the efforts of each redress mechanism will be fruitless and inadequate to respond to the many challenges that affect this region.