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GBV: UNFPA tasks frontline workers on survivor-centered approach

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Thursday called on frontline health and social workers to put Gender-Based Violence Survivors (GBVS) at the centre of their Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS).

Mrs. Deborah Tabara, Gender and GBV Analyst, UNFPA, Bauchi State Office, made the call in Kaduna at the ongoing five-day training of trainers on MHPSS for GBVS amidst the COVID-19 and insecurity.

In a paper titled, “GBV Attitudes and Perceptions,” Tabara explained that frontline workers who have direct contact with GBVS must recognise the uniqueness of each survivor.

She added that the workers must note that each person reacts differently to gender-based violence and would have different needs, strength, resources and coping mechanisms.

According to her, each survivor has the right to decide who should know about what happened to him or her and what should happen next.

“Therefore, frontline workers must trust, believe the survivors, protect them from further harm and provide them with the opportunity to talk about their concerns without pressure.

“They should also assist survivors in making choices and in seeking help if they want to, to cope with the fear that may have negative reactions or of being blamed for the violence.

“The workers should equally provide basic psychosocial support to the survivors and give back the control they lost during the violence.

“These survivor-centred skills should be applied by everyone who is in contact with survivors, regardless of their role in the community or professional position.”

The gender analyst further urged the frontline workers to ensure that survivors accessed appropriate and good quality services such as healthcare, psychological, social, security and legal services.

She also said that competent service delivery requires appropriate attitudes, knowledge and skills and involves applying the GBV guiding principles of safety, confidentiality, respect, and non-discrimination.

“Frontline workers’ attitude should be centred on the survivor because people have the right to live a life free from violence, and GBVS were not at fault or to blame for the violence they experience.

“Survivors should not be stigmatized, shamed, or ridiculed for the violence they have experienced and should not be forced to disclose or report their experience to anyone.

“They should have the right to make their own decisions about their care and their lives because they can recover and heal from their history and experiences of violence.

“It is important to acknowledge the importance of our attitudes and approaches to services as case workers,’’ Taraba said.

Mr. Macauley Christian, UNFPA Humanitarian Coordinator, said it was important for survivors of severe and traumatic violence or stress to tell their stories.

“The challenge for us as caregivers is to provide the safety that enables the survivor to trust,  so they can tell their stories and begin a recovery process.

“We must, therefore, ensure physical, emotional safety and trust for the survivors to feel confident and tell us their story so we could provide the needed services,” Christian said.

Dr. Ibrahim Mshelia, one of the facilitators, said that GBV reactions affect individuals in different domains of livelihood which include physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and mental.

According to him, when any domain is compromised, the whole system becomes defective.

He stressed the need for Psychological First Aid (PFA), which was a “humane, supportive and practical assistance to fellow human beings who is recently exposed to serious stress.”

“It involves helping people to address basic needs; comforting people and helping them to feel calm; helping people connect to information, services and social support and protecting people from further harm,’’ he added. (NAN)

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