By: Sika Falconer

Money makes the world go round might not be a scientific fact, but we cannot deny that it certainly greases the wheels of commerce, comfort, and safety. Yes, safety. For too many women the world over, a lack of financial independence puts their lives in danger.

Money may make the world go round but CoViD-19 seems to have brought it to a temporary halt. What has not halted is the number of women and girls at risk of sexual and physical violence. In fact, research from the UN shows that rates of Gender-Based violence have risen as lockdowns, advice on shielding and travel restrictions mean that many women and girls are trapped with their abusers, without even the possibility of a brief respite from the constant threat of violence in their own homes, the one place they should feel safe. Often, this physical abuse is accompanied by financial abuse, creating a vicious circle which victims find nearly impossible to break out of. How do you “leave to live” when leaving likely means homelessness, hunger and a lack of access to medical services for you and your children?

Ordinarily, Domestic Violence shelters, charities and non-governmental organisations would step into this financial gap but the unusual circumstance of operating in the pandemic situation means many such places of refuge are cash-strapped and unable to provide the support needed. Let’s face it, women’s safety services have limped on for years, crippled by a chronic lack of funding. For instance, stakeholders estimate that Ghana’s Domestic Violence Support Fund requires GHC1.5m annually to function effectively; shockingly, it has allegedly never received any financial assistance from the government since its inception in 2007. It is no wonder that perpetrators of violence against women and girls do so with relative impunity – after all they operate within a system that seems unwilling to put its money where its mouth is.

To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, that nebulous thing which we call society does not exist. Society is an idea, made up of individuals and families looking after themselves and their neighbours. To simply sit back and expect governments to fund solutions to the problem of domestic violence is to be incredibly naïve. We must each ask ourselves how we can contribute. Of course, the most obvious route is to provide financial aid, donating to shelters, refuges and charities dedicated to helping victims of Gender-Based Violence. Your money funds rape kits, legal assistance, skills training, and other forms of empowerment designed to help women and girls break away from violence.

There is, however, no denying that the current pandemic, with its concurrent loss of employment and income for so many poses an obstacle to that particular course of action. So, what else can you do? Well, consider offering other services in lieu of money. Provided you pass background checks, you can volunteer at a refuge providing logistic support to the refuge perhaps as a driver or cleaner or by providing legal services if you are qualified to do so. There are many ways in which you can help, thus freeing up charities and NGOs to put their limited funds to good use helping women and girls get back on the road to financial independence and hence the possibility of a future free from abuse.

Here are some organizations working to eradicate Gender-Based Violence in countries around Africa. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but a simple Internet search will help you to find the details of relevant charities within your locality. As we Orange the World over the next 16 days, please consider donating your money and time to help women and girls escape abuse. Thank you.