On Wednesday, 18th May 2022, the American Center of the US Embassy Ghana in collaboration with the American Corner Agbogba located in Mobile Web Ghana, organized a webinar on the topic: “Breaking Barriers and Giving Voice to Vulnerable Groups.” The speaker for the discussion was Jill Theresa Messing, a Professor at School of Social Work and the Director of the Office of Gender-Based Violence at Arizona State University in the US.
The event was a hybrid one, where participants joined either virtually on zoom or in-person at the American Corner Agbogba. Participants who attended in-person came from diverse backgrounds. Present were representatives from Civil Society Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, Journalists, Ghana Police Service, students from tertiary and senior high levels and gender activists. Also present were some representatives from the US Embassy Ghana.
The program started with an introduction by Rita Awuku (Director of the American Center) after which Florence Toffa (Director of Mobile Web Ghana and the American Corner Agbogba), introduced Michelle Cloud (Regional Public Engagement Specialist) to give the welcome address. The facilitator, Jill Theresa Messing started with her presentation after all introductions have been done.
Jill began her presentation by asking some rhetorical questions relating to gender-based violence from intimate sexual relations and domestic violence. She went further to describe what domestic violence is and the different forms it can take. She categorized domestic violence into physical and sexual abuse such as assault, rape, defilement etc
Jill also highlighted signs of a healthy relationship. She explained that relationships that were devoid of non-violence were considered to be healthy. Signs or actions that shows that one is in a healthy relationship are:
1. Where there is economic partnership
- Responsible parenting
- Honesty and Accountability
- Trust and Support
If these signs are evident in a relationship, that relationship shows ‘Equality’ from both parties signifying that it is a healthy one.
According to Jill, intimate partner violence is one of the main contributions to gender-based violence. Its effect is adverse on the victim’s health and a threat to life. Globally too, according to UN Women, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
In her presentation, Jill highlighted the results of gender-based violence. These are:
Physical health outcomes Mental health Outcome
Traumatic brain injury Depressions
Chronic pain Suicidal behavior
Gastrointestinal issues Substance issue
Neurological issues Insomnia
2,000 cases per year
She went further, encouraging that gender-based violence is a collective responsibility, hence we each have a role to play in the advocacy process. After her presentation, Jill welcomed questions from participants and she answered them. In some of her answers, Jill gave professional guidance and counseling on how some complicated gender-based violence cases can be addressed. There was an interesting question by a student on whether perpetrators can ever change. Jill said they can, when they resolve to do so. She also admonished the police and policy/law makers to ensure that victims of gender-based violence are protected and perpetrators punished, to deter others from also violating other people’s rights. Before ending her presentation, she introduced participants to an app called myPlan App, functioning in the United States. This app helps people report any form of gender-based violence. She entreated participants to visit the app, check out its features and gain ideas on how similar interventions can be used to address gender-based violence in Ghana. A participant from the Ghana Police Service also added that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Ghana, through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection launched an ‘Orange Support Center and the Boame App’, last year. This is to help address sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices in Ghana.
The closing remark was done by Michelle Cloud after which followed a group photograph and networking session.
It was a wonderful program. Participants, both in-person and virtual, expressed their excitement about the new knowledge gained, through their comments and feedback.