Save the Children supports Parliamentary Committee on Gender and Children Affairs to conduct Oversight of One Stop Centers.
One Stop Centre in Kailahun. October 2022. Photo Credit; Save the Children
The protection of Children, especially Girls, is at the heart of Save the Children’s programming. With the 5th Parliament coming to closure, there is no better time for advocacy efforts that will get bills passed into law that will generally protect children especially girls. This law will further address the issue of early child and forced marriage and other traditional harmful practices like Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
With the establishment of the six One Stop Centers by the Government of Sierra Leone in July 2020, several child protection agencies are supporting these centers so that children who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence are provided a safe space, adequate medical care and legal services to bring cases to court. Save the Children aligning with government’s policy on protecting children, is supporting two of the centers in Kailahun and Pujehun.
Accompanied by a 23-man Parliamentary Committee on Gender and Children’s Affairs, Honorable Catherine Zainab Tarawallie, conducted an oversight visit to One Stop Centers in Kailahun, Pujehun and Kenema from the 25th-30th October 2022, to get firsthand evidence on the functions of the Centers; identify gaps on how they function and the impact support from Save the Children is having on protection of children.
Members of the Gender and Childrens Affairs Committee having a session during the oversight in Pujehun. October 2022. Photo Credit Save the Children
“We were seriously touched with the statistics presented in the findings during the Political Economic and Budget Analysis Research presentation, this ignited a rage in us and prompted us to make the oversight visit” Hon Zainab Catherine Tarawallie said.
The team started their visit in Pujehun were they had frank discussions with staff and survivors. In these conversations, two key successes through support of Save the Children emerged; the first being prompt provision of medical support for rape victims and secondly, access to justice for victims of sexual violence. Next stop was Kailahun where committee members met stakeholders who talked about a harmonized district level bye-law to address gender-based violence including child early forced marriage, teenage pregnancy, sexual violence and compromise.
From January 2022 to 25th October 2022, there has been a total of 90 SGBV cases of which 83 was sexual penetration, 5 rape and 2 cases of sodomy. 11 of the girls sexually penetrated became pregnant. With the support from Save the Children, 27 convictions have been recorded.
Despite efforts by organisations, challenges remain. Convictions are slow leading to compromise in many cases and resources for a holistic service for survivors inadequate.
With these findings from the oversight visit, the committee pledged unflinching support in getting the amended Child Rights Act passed into law during the 5th Parliament.