After more than a decade of advocacy and support for the management of violence against women, ENDA Santé is setting up a centre for the management of sexual violence. Through the VIMOS project (Sexual Violence and Genital Mutilation in Senegal), the organisation will soon be offering victims of violence holistic care based on the promotion of a favourable environment to improve their health and well-being. From Ziguinchor, in the south of Senegal, where the care centre is located, Marie Tall DIOP, who is in charge of the project, explains the workings of the initiative.
What is the VIMOS project and what will be the added value of the centre in the fight against gender-based violence?
The VIMOS project (Sexual Violence and Genital Mutilation in Senegal) was initiated by Enda Santé in partnership with the NGO SANACCES, with funding from Luxembourg. It is a project whose objective is to fight against gender-based violence and female genital mutilation. The project operates in the three regions of Casamance (Sédhiou, Ziguinchor and Kolda) with a sub-regional focus through interventions planned in Gambia and Guinea Bissau.
The first phase was implemented between 2014 and 2016. Today, the project is in its second phase, launched in 2018 and will run until the end of 2021. In this second phase, a holistic care centre is being built for victims of gender-based violence, from medical care to psychosocial care and if necessary legal care. We would like all victims to have all the services they need for their care in one place.
"In addition to psychological, medical and legal care, there will be social care to ensure social mediation and the safe return of victims to their families.
In a very complex cultural context of the southern region, what will be the process of identification and care of the victims?
We have already started the process. Firstly, by establishing various partnership agreements with all the existing structures that provide psychosocial or legal care. Often, these are structures that are dedicated to a single method of care. We also have a partnership with actors at the community level. We have a vast network of peer educators, young people aged 18 to 24 whom we have had to orientate on the SRAJ, on the different types of violence and how to prevent them, on gender and on human rights. We rely on these networks, whether it be the teenagers who have been trained, the badiénou gokh, community leaders, religious leaders, etc.
These actors will not only ensure the prevention of violence through awareness-raising activities at the community level, but also support us in referring cases of violence to the care centre. Once the presumed victim has been referred, she will first be taken care of by a social worker. The latter will refer her, if necessary, to the medical service or to the legal service and will decide whether she needs accommodation at the centre or whether she can safely return to her family.
In addition to providing care, how do you intend to help the victims find their families?
The care also includes the social aspect. Victims will only be accommodated at the centre if it is shown that they are not safe in their homes or if they have nowhere to go. Even in these cases, there will be social mediation to ensure a safe return to the family unit. The centre does not aim to reinforce family breakdowns. On the contrary, it will provide accommodation for a victim until they are able to return safely to their family. In addition to psychological, medical and legal care, there will be social care to ensure social mediation and the safe return of victims to their families.
ENDA Health, March 2021