Women in the Upper East Region have called on the government to implement pragmatic measures and policies to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and protect the rights of women and girls.
They said even though some efforts were made at curbing the phenomenon, it was still prevalent in the region with the vulnerable groups, particularly women and girls being the most affected.
The women made the call at Bolgatanga through their religious, traditional and community leaders at a press conference facilitated by the Widows and Orphans Movement (WOM), a Women's rights organization in partnership with Oxfam in Ghana and Women in Law and Development (WiLDAF) Ghana with funding support from the European Union (EU).
It was part of the implementation of a four-year project dubbed, "ENOUGH!", aimed at empowering women, girls, boys and men to take positive action in ending sexual and gender-based violence in Ghana, Liberia and Mali.
The women leaders were selected from six communities in two districts, including Gundork, Logre and Kongo in the Nabdam District and Vea, Balungu and Bongo-Beo in the Bongo District.
Statistics from the Ghana Health Service showed that the Upper East Region recorded 222, 306 and 308 domestic violence cases in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively while cases of Sexual Violence of 25, 32 and five were reported in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Data from the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) in the region also showed reported cases of SGBV recorded 609 and 619 in 2019 and 2020 respectively while the region in January and February 2021 alone recorded 38 and 49 cases respectively.
This, the women stated, was adversely affecting their growth, development and wellbeing and was an infringement upon their fundamental human rights and dignity and called for the resourcing of human promotion and protection institutions to work towards ending the canker.
Ms Evelyn Nyaaba, a Legal Literacy Volunteer and one of the women leaders from Bongo-Beo community, said when adequately resourced, institutions such as the Commission on Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), DOVVSU and other human rights institutions, would be able to intensify education and take legal actions against perpetrators of the act.
"The areas of focus should include property rights, dehumanizing widowhood rites, rape, forced marriages and child marriage, witchcraft accusations, discrimination, Legal Aid among others with an emphasis on the consequences of their violation of the human rights and dignity," she said.
Ms Nyaaba called for the decentralization of the human rights promotion and institutions to all districts to make them readily accessible to residents and encourage citizens to readily report incidents of violation of their rights to the appropriate authorities.
The women further urged the government to create more economic opportunities for the rural women in the region with special emphasis on market access for farm produce and handicrafts.
They said when the women were economically empowered, they would contribute to the upkeep of their various families it would reduce abuses meted because of their economic vulnerability.
The women also want the National House of Chiefs to formulate policy guidelines to enable traditional rulers to support and encourage timely reportage of criminal cases to the relevant authorities instead of resolving such cases at the community level without providing justice to survivors.
"The Upper East Regional House of Chiefs should impress on traditional authorities to liaise with the local government structures to enact by-laws to regulate the closing time for late evening social events such as funerals, and graduation ceremonies which are often avenues where sexual and gender-based violence is perpetrated on children below the ages of 18," she stressed.