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Canary Islands-based organization Opciónate has played a part in the promotion of women and girls’ rights in Guinea-Bissau by providing technical consultancy services that will help cement the mechanisms of the Care and Support Network for Women Victims of Gender-Based Violence in the African country.

The initiative has been put into action by Portuguese organization Fundação Fé e Cooperação (FEC) within the framework of project ‘We take care of our lives. Women-Emancipation and rights of girls and women in Guinea-Bissau’, financed by the European Union, Camões-Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua and Kindermissionswerk and implemented jointly by Italian NGOs Mani Tese and Engim in partnership with FEC.

The project was conceived to promote and guarantee the rights of Guinean women and girls as a way to ensure compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified by 186 countries.

From February 15 to March 27, 2021, Opciónate’s local team in Guinea Bissau conducted interviews with 37 local actors (17 women and 21 men) in the capital, Bissau, and in four other regions in the country’s South –Tombalí and Quinara–, and West –Gabu and Bafatá.

A total 47 tabankas (villages) were covered, having surveyed several civil organizations –key players in the prevention and fight against gender-based violence–, State owned agencies such as the Institute for Women and Children (IMC), the Legal Aid Centres (CAJ) and Guardianship Centres and national entities, as well as social communication bodies.

These interviews and questionnaires have provided valuable information to substantially improve and harmonize documents and instruments for the assistance, referral, support and protection of victims.

Respondents claimed that the Government should create mechanisms and design strategies for the sustained use of these instruments by the institutions working in the care and protection areas.

Furthermore, one hundred percent of the people surveyed stated that already in place national regulations and policies should be effectively enforced and that the State administration, a signatory to the Conventions, must create the basic conditions to ensure compliance with international commitments and support management of these centers.

From the interviews and questionnaires conducted, it can also be concluded that the instruments created within the framework of the project, although insufficient, are fundamental to ensure a basic status for victims and should exist and be upgraded, and also, the fundamental role they play in categorizing and registering cases from an administrative standpoint.

Therefore, challenges reside in the prevention of gender-based violence via systematized efforts to build awareness and promote the socio-economic independence of women, but also in enabling better access to reporting, protection measures and reintegration of victims.

Systematization of results

The work included the systematization and harmonization of the data generated towards its integration in the Regulations of the Centre for the Protection of GBV Victims in Guinea Bissau.

Additionally, over the two-month period a comparative review of legislative frameworks was conducted, including national (legislation and policies) and international binding documents (conventions and protocols) on gender-based violence from 5 Portuguese-speaking African nations: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe. This research concluded with the drawing up of a report on the systematization of policies and legislation on gender-based violence.

Regulations and national policies have led to strengthened relations among public institutions in all countries involved, civil organizations, agencies and international partners for the purposes of building strategies to fend off gender-based violence.