Focus group with persons with Disability on GBV and COVID-19 in GRA Bamenda I
The spread of the Covid-19 Pandemic in the North West Region of Cameroon compounded the vulnerabilities of women and persons living with disabilities. Confined living conditions due to lockdown and social isolation measures including economic and physical restrictions have worsened the conditions in which women live, de-prioritized their fundamental rights, and threatened their survival while duty bearers and policymakers appear to turn a blind eye to the plight of women and girls suffering from gender-based violence (GBV). To assess these concerns, CAEPA undertook focus group discussions (FGD) with the Beyond Disabilities group to understand the concerns and needs of persons living with disabilities as well as the services and assistance available during the crisis and COVID-19 lockdown. This information will help CAEPA better advocate and plan for persons living with disabilities and vulnerable women and girls within these affected communities.
GBV Assessment Findings
During the focus group discussion, participants identified emotional and psychological violence, economic violence, and sexual violence as prevalent during the Anglophone crisis and COVID-19. Participants identified the period 2021 to pose a high risk as persons with disabilities are constantly insulted and assaulted especially at police checkpoints. Moreover, persons living with disabilities in this community often depend on family, friends, or small businesses for survival, sources which have been imperiled by the pandemic.
From the testimonies from survivors at GRA Bamenda I, currently, there has been a rise in the number of GBV manifestations on people living with disabilities, though instances remain underreported as most victims are afraid of stigmatization from the community. The consensus across FGD was that persons living with disabilities’ safety and security are still a call for concern. Physical locations all over the Bamenda community are unsafe for them
Participants of the FGDs mentioned a number of services available to victims and survivors of GBV including the CBC health center Nkwen and their own support group. However, these insitutiitions offer mostly counseling services, which are often insufficient to the needs of survivors.
CAEPA recommends the following actions be taken. First, engage health personnel and community counselors on case management. Secondly, create empowerment activities to economically bolster persons living with disabilities in order to reduce their rate of dependency. Thirdly, provide a hotline where victims can report cases. And finally, engage in sensitization which will raise awareness of what actions should be undertaken in cases of GBV.