The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hosted a symposium on Thursday attended by stakeholders of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) care from different organisations.
The conference focused on services such as medical and legal aid that can be accessed by women who face SGBV. It emphasised on a “comprehensive approach on learning from different models of SGBV programmes based on current experiences and challenges.”
Specialists in the field of SGBV discussed the various challenges women face in different strata of economic classes – especially women who are domestic violence survivors, slum-dwellers, sex workers and residents of disaster-prone areas.
The symposium aimed to help different players, including governmental authorities and relevant partners, working in SGBV care “to understand overlapping dimensions of the topic for sustainable solutions.”
The event began with a welcome address by MSF Head of Mission, Pavlo Kolovos. It also emphasised the need to spread awareness about health care and psychosocial and legal services to women who usually do not know where to go to seek help.
Additional Director of Department of Women Affairs under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs Shahnowas Dilruba Khan took part in the symposium as the chief guest.
She said: “The collaboration between government and non-government organisations will strengthen the endeavour to achieve the SDG on gender equality and equity.”
The presentations were followed by a panel chaired by MSF Medical Coordinator in Bangladesh Dr Mitchell Sangma. The panel included specialists from One Stop Crisis Centre (OCC), ICDDR,B, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Department of Forensic Medicine of Dhaka Medical College.
Senior Scientist in SBGV at ICDDR,B Dr Ruchira Tabassum stressed on the need of “prevention” from sexual violence which requires a massive social change. She also urged the government organisations to collaborate with NGOs to make such prevention effective.
According to Kolovos: “Sexual and gender-based violence must be addressed as a very significant factor of any society. The need for medical and psychological care has to be met to help the victims with their trauma."
"MSF is working in Kamrangirchar, assisting those who have difficulty to access other SGBV care. Our aim is to ensure free and timely access to good quality medical care as well as to improve the victims’ dignity. A sustained, long-term, and broad-based effort is needed to assist both victims and those at risk,” he added.
MSF's Kamrangirchar urban slum project started in 2010. They have been actively working towards improving women's access to reproductive health care, enhancing access to medical services for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and providing primary health care for factory workers.
SGBV Cluster Coordinator of UNFPA Saba Zariv discussed how their teams provide essential psychological and medical help to survivors in disaster-prone areas.
The One-Stop Crisis Centre also provides necessary services to victims of sexual violence. Project Director of Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence against Women Dr Abdul Hossain, who also supervises and coordinates the activities of OCC, said women with SGBV complaints can very easily access their helpline by calling 109.
Dr Sangma concluded the panel by asking vital questions regarding SGBV: “Are there still victims of rape, domestic violence, and HIV who are seeking health care and counselling? Are there still girls who report violence to police to seek justice? Can an adolescent boy learn in school that violence against women is unacceptable? Can the media respect the confidentiality and dignity of survivors?”
“Until the answer to all of these is yes, we have a long way to go,” he added.
The event ended with a vote of thanks by MSF Project Coordinator Arunn Jegan.