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Sunday, July 3, 2022

OTC raises awareness on sexual harassment for persons with disabilities

By Osman Hardy Jalloh in Kenema

Opportunity Training Centre, (OTC) Kenema, as an organization catering for persons living with impairment, has, on the 26th and 27 May 2022, adopted a zero tolerance approach towards sexual exploitation and abuse of its beneficiaries, after a two-day training on Sexual Harassment and Awareness Raising of its sexual Harassment Policy at its Conference Hall in Kenema.

The training was organized and executed in partnership and in collaboration with Engineers without Borders, Denmark, (OTC’s major donors), OTC Administration and One Village Partner (OVP) with the objective of creating awareness on Sexual harassment issues generally related to persons living with impairment, particularly women, to raise awareness on the sexual Harassment Policy and to empower and raise the confidence of the persons living with impairment particularly women to say NO to sexual harassment, and to be aware of the procedure for reporting issues related to sexual harassment and abuse.

During the interactive sessions, the facilitators from the OVP guided the participants to the awareness and understanding of the following terms that were relevant to the topic under discussion: Gender-based discrimination, Sexual coercion, Gender equity, Sexual harassment, Harassment,Personal Boundaries etc.

The causes, effects, and prevention of sexual harassment were also discussed in small groups and at the plenary. The facilitators used role plays, questions and answers and discussions to drive the messages home. The second day of the training was devoted to the discussion on the OTC Sexual Exploitation Policy.

Speaking after the training, the Women Empowerment Program’s Manager of One Village Partner Network, Cheryl Acheampong underscored the importance of providing the required knowledge about sexual violence to vulnerable categories of people in society, in an effort to minimize the rate at which it occurs.

“As organizations fighting for equal opportunity for people living with impairments, we thought it necessary to have training with the beneficiaries and management of OTC to increase their knowledge on sexual harassment and encourage persons living with impairment to speak up when faced with such situations. From our findings, most of them did not even know that the major cause of rape is sexual harassment. So with this training, we are confident that most of the things they used to do which they thought were not forms of harassment will be stopped and they can report issues of such to the appropriate authorities,” Acheampong says.

Reverend Sister Anthonia Ezeibekwe, Student Counsellor at Opportunity Training Center in Kenema says issues of sexual harassment are concerns to any society and persons living with impairment suffer more because of their conditions.

“This training has empowered them to speak out and report to the designated authority where they would be listened to and their concerns will be taken up until justice is done,” she emphasises.

Lamin Kamara and Sallaymatu Brima, two of the beneficiaries, lauded the initiative in acknowledging the knowledge gained on sexual harassment and the need to report issues of such, but however called for a continuation of such engagement.

“We have learnt a lot. For me, I wasn’t aware that some of these actions they mentioned amount to sexual harassment except today. Previously, we just saw them as a normal routine and we were afraid to speak up, but with this training, I now have the confidence to talk to the appropriate authorities when such issues arise. And we hope these kinds of training will be replicated in the near future,” Lamin Kamara says.

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