This center, which is the first to be hosted at a private health facility—Hope for Women International—on the AB Tolbert Road in Paynesville City, would cater to all survivors of SGBV.
The concept of the One Stop Center is designed to support survivors of SGBV by providing the services of the different services providers in one location to make it easier for the survivors to access the needed services in one facility.
The service providers include law enforcement agency, health services, social workers, etc.
The proprietress of the Hope for Women International, Dr. (MD) Whilemena Jallah, said the idea of her facility, which now caters for only women’s issues, including medical, began few years ago when she decided to leave the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Sinkor, where she worked as a medical doctor.
“When I left JFK my husband and I decided to open a clinic that caters to women. I had handled a lot of women’s issues at JFK; as a result all my patients followed me here. My husband and I felt that the clinic should incorporate hope for women, which is why today we have a One Stop Center in the country,” Dr. Jallah said.
Giving the background to the concept of establishing the center in Liberia, Madam Rosana Schaak, executive director of Touching Humanity In Need of Kindness (THINK), said they had borrowed the idea from Family Justice Center in the USA and the Thuthuzela Care Center and the Simelela Center in Cape Town, both in South Africa.
Ms. Schaak said Liberia modeled its centers after that of the South African concept, which incorporated theirs into a health facility or hospital, while the US facilities visited in Brooklyn, New York, are incorporated within government buildings.
“In Liberia, we feel that having the One Stop Center in a health facility will be ideal for the survivors and promote confidentiality and have less chance of stigmatization as anyone and everyone goes to hospital,” THINK’s exe. director stated.
Those present at the official opening ceremony, which took place Tuesday, March 4, included the heads of the UN specialized organs’ offices in Liberia—WHO, UN Women, UNFPA, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and government officials from the Ministries of Gender and Development, Health and Social Welfare and Justice.
Representing the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (DSRSG) at the program, the chief of office staff of the DSRSG, Mr. Ademola Aroaye, said gender equality has long been recognized both as a human rights and a core Millennium Development Goal. Aroaye, however, added that in Liberia, there are still numerous challenges that daunt its achievement.
“Critical among these, is the growing gender inequalities that are exacerbated by the continued prevalence of violence against women and the girl child and in some instance boys,” he said.
He further stated that the issue of SGBV in Liberia has reached such levels that every effort and mechanism should be introduced to curb it.
“Based on data from the Ministry of Gender and Development from the months of January to September 2013, 2,116 SGBV cases were reported nationally. Of these, 1, 338 (62.2 percent) were rape cases, with 961 (71.8 percent) of victims under 18 years. There has been a significant rise in the number of cases of children in the age range of six to 14 years.”
Among other things, Aroaye said what is “disheartening” is that most of the recorded cases the perpetrators have not been arrested or have been released due to lack of evidence and other factors.
Also speaking, the WHO Representative to Liberia, Dr. Nestor Ndayimirije, said the launch of the center was a symbol of government’s commitment to the advancement of gender equality and human rights in partnership with the UN and civil society.
Dr. Ndayimirije, who is the UN Resident Coordinator, ad interim, added: “This center has been set up with the aim of improving service delivery, care and support to survivors of domestic violence as well as sexual gender-based violence. The center further aims to ensure that the circle of support through the referral pathway is complete including clinical and psycho social protection and legal support.
The UN acting Resident Coordinator stated that gender-based violence and child abuse have devastating medical, psychological, economic and legal effects on the individual, the family, the community, the wider society and the whole nation.
He further stated that the concept of having all the services in one facility is in line with the UN reform agenda of delivering as one body.
The One Stop Center is a Joint Project of the UN Family in Liberia and is supported by the Swedish Embassy in Liberia.
For her part, the UNFPA Resident Representative, told the audience that the UN was piloting the One Stop Centers with four different models, including partnership with government or public health facilities through the MoSHW; partnership with a health facility run by the Catholic Church; partnership with THINK, an NGO, and partnership with a privately owned hospital.
Ms. Ratidzai Ndhlovu emphasized that all services for SGBV at the centers are absolutely free of charge; adding: “It is also worth mentioning that the services are integrated within the general provision of sexual Reproductive Health services for women and girls.”
Before she officially declared the center opened, Deputy Health Minister for Social Services at MoSHW, Cllr. Vivian Cherue, said the fight against SGBV is an ongoing one.
“It has not ended. We are in it for our girls, women and boys. Let’s continue,” Cllr. Cherue stated.
At present there are at least five centers in Montserrado— West Point (Small Catholic), Redemption Hospital, JDJ (Neezoe, Somalia Drive), Duport Road and Hope for Women Int’l. Other centers can be found at the Government Hospital in Tubmanburg, Bomi, C.B. Dunbar Hospital, Bong, C. H. Rennie Hospital, Margibi, Liberia Government Hospital, Grand Bassa and Government Hospital, Grand Gedeh.