Talking about sexualized and gender-based violence (SGBV)

Gender equalitySocial issues

Notes to broadcasters

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is any act, or the threat of an act, that causes physical, psychological/emotional, economic, or sexual pain or injury to a person because of that person’s gender.

Examples of SGBV that can lead to death, physical injury, or psychological trauma include infanticide, honour killing, female genital mutilation, femicide, human trafficking, forced labour, forced marriage, confinement, dispossession, rape (of an intimate partner or non-partner), domestic violence, and humiliation.

Increasing reports of physical and spousal abuse to police led the Ghana Police Administration in 1998 to establish the Women and Juvenile Unit, which is now called DOVVSU (Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit). This is a specialized unit that handles crimes against women and children. The enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 2007 and the Legislative Instrument in 2016 have also helped tackle domestic violence in Ghana.

In spite of the existence of DOVVSU, Ghana still faces increased reports of SGBV because there are inadequate essential services to address it, including social services, educational, and health services. For example, survivors of sexualized violence must pay for medical fees though they are supposed to be free; there are limited DOVVSU offices and staff at the district and community levels; there are limited shelter facilities for survivors; and the degree of ignorance about SGBV allows perpetrators to behave without consequences.

Coupled with limited access to essential services such as shelters and hotlines, this has created a situation where SGBV thrives in many communities in Ghana. These challenges make it necessary to educate Ghanaians about SGBV, so that they are aware of the services available to them, and the steps they need to take to get justice.

This script includes real and fictional representations of survivors of SGBV as well as social workers and advocates who fight against SGBV in their line of work. They discuss SGBV at the workplace and in the informal work sector and suggest the best way forward in Ghana. If you want to create programs about sexualized and gender-based violence and the services available to support survivors of SGBV, talk to people who work in social service organizations and other supporting organizations, and, if possible, speak with survivors of SGBV. You might want to ask them the following questions:

  • What is the definition of SGBV and what does it include?
  • How common are instances of SGBV in this area?
  • What services are available in this area to support survivors of SGBV?
  • What are the most important things to remember in caring for survivors?
  • What kinds of policies should workplaces enact to ensure that offices, farms, and other places are safe for all workers?

Estimated duration of the radio script with music, intro and extro: 25-30 minutes



Hello, cherished listeners, this is Heart FM and you are listening to Radio Buzz Feed. My name is Karim Stephan, and I’m bringing you the best talk show on air. Stay tuned!


Welcome to Radio Buzz Feed—settle down and relax, feed your thoughts, and grow your knowledge. Today is a very special episode dedicated to survivors of sexualized and gender-based violence, or SGBV. Our interviews will focus on SGBV as it occurs in both urban and rural workplaces, which includes assault and rape but can take less obvious forms.

Most people assume SGBV is rape or sexual assault. But it includes many other forms of violence and encompasses all forms of unwanted sexual contact or interactions. Sexualized violence is an overarching term used to describe any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality.

As part of my introduction, I’ll allow Mr. Kojo Addo to give us some statistics on the topic as it is tracked in Ghana.

Just a note to our listeners: Today’s discussion will cover topics such as rape in detail and may be disturbing to some.

Thank you, Karim. My name is Kojo Addo and I’m a social worker who specializes in community development, policy advocacy, and youth development. I’m happy to have this opportunity to share my views and experience on the effects of SGBV on society and to encourage all survivors of SGBV to speak up if they feel safe to do so, and to seek justice.

I must state emphatically that SGBV is a violation of human rights. It denies the human dignity of the individual and hurts human development.

In 2016, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection undertook a study on domestic violence which revealed that nearly 40% of women in Ghana have experienced physical violence while one in ten were sexually assaulted.

It is estimated that at least one in three women will experience some sort of violence in their lifetime. This represents more than one billion women worldwide. And it is the poorest and most marginalized of women who face the greatest risks of violence.

Thank you, Kojo Addo. Now, Sarah, what’s kinds of support are available for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Ghanaian institutions?

Thank you, Karim. My name is Sarah Dabotse. I manage a local non-governmental organization in Ghana that advocates against SGBV and fights for the basic human rights of women and the marginalized in the society.

It’s a fact that essential services to address gender-based violence from social services, from police and the justice sector, and from educational and health services have not been adequately provided to state actors and citizens in Ghana. There are limited DOVVSU offices and personnel at the district and community level. DOVVSU is the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit. DOVVSU is under-resourced and has limited shelter facilities for women who have survived SGBV. These limitations make it easier for perpetrators of sexualized violence to act without consequences. An unprepared system with these kinds of flaws will fail many women, and may even cause them further harm.

Kojo Addo, one of the issues we wanted to focus on in this program is sexualized and gender-based violence in the workplace. Do you believe that SGBV exists in workplaces in Ghana?

Yes, SGBV happens in many workplaces, both in rural communities and in urban workplaces. And it takes place in both the private and public sectors. It is damaging—people are denied opportunities, promotions, and other work incentives because they refuse to give sexual favours, not to mention the harmful impacts on survivors’ mental and physical health.

Joycelyn Okyere, please introduce yourself and tell us if you think our institutions are well equipped to deal with SGBV?

My name is Miss Joycelyn Okyere, I stand for the fight against gender-based violence and all forms of abuse. I raise awareness on the negative effects abuse has on survivors and the community at large. And I share my views and expertise on how to help SGBV survivors and encourage the justice system to arrest and prosecute perpetrators.

I strongly believe that there remain flaws in the system and that these encourage SGBV in our country, and make it more difficult for survivors to come forward.

The informal sector is huge and there’s a wide range of workers in such workspaces. We need to put pressure on the system to put structures in place to deal with sexualized violence in informal sectors. The informal sector must have policies, or at least agreed-upon and expected standards of conduct, to deal with sexual harassment, exploitation, and rape.

I met people who experienced SGBV in their workplaces and kept their predicament to themselves because they feared no one would believe them. Most of these people were abused by their superiors and they knew they ran the risk of losing their jobs.

I’m very glad you brought up the issue of inequities of power. For example, there are women whose bosses ask them for a sexual favour. If they refuse, they could end up losing their promotion or their job entirely. This places them in a sensitive and vulnerable position. Their boss is abusing their position of power. This can make it close to impossible for women to grow in their careers and perpetuates workplace cultures that deny and stigmatize the experiences of survivors.

This can also happen on a farm where a farmer asks their labourer or harvester for sexual favours in exchange for keeping their jobs. The lack of regulation and oversight in the informal sector means that it is even less prepared to deal with sexual harassment and exploitation. But it is happening there and must be stopped in order to ensure that all workers are safe and secure.

Well said. Even in the year 2021, it is difficult for survivors to share their stories. This is due to our cultural perception that the survivor must have incited rape in one way or another, and so perpetrators go unpunished. The system must be organized and prepared to safeguard the lives of survivors and bring them justice.

I had the same experience as a teenager. I was sexually abused by a schoolmate but I was never ready to report the issue due to my fear of stigmatization. I held onto my hurt for as long as I could until I encountered a friend who was in a similar situation. We shared our experiences with each other and supported each other to manage our fears. Then we decided to report to the authorities. We journeyed together in our counselling sessions and joined a secret club where we met with other SGBV survivors. Speaking with counsellors helped us greatly on the journey.

Thank you for sharing your story with us. Hopefully talking about these issues can help us to reduce sexual and gender-based violence and improve support systems for survivors.

Do offices and other workplaces typically have a code of conduct to follow with regards to sexual harassment, exploitation, and SGBV in general?

Most offices have codes of conduct on sexual exploitation and abuse, but they seem to only exist on paper. Leaders and management officers don’t seem to encourage reports of rape, abuse, harassment, or other types of SGBV. Abusive language and other forms of violence are left unchecked and mostly regarded as normal.

It’s important that regulators like the labour commission ensure that such policies are enforced in the informal sector, especially in places like bars, pubs, restaurants, laundries, trade areas, market places, transport and bus stations, and the like. If we could have ongoing regular training and coaching for personnel who work at report stations and confidential counselling support for them, we could make some progress at eradicating SGBV in these work areas.

I agree. We must have better reporting procedures and procedures that are safe for survivors. They should be designed to ensure that the needs and priorities of survivors are respected, that allegations are investigated, and that perpetrators are dealt with appropriately.

What kinds of consequences do you think that perpetrators of SGBV in workplaces should face?

Well, it depends on what happened. If offences are considered minor, they can be handled by the Human Resources department—or by other departments if there’s no HR department. Consequences could range from suspension without pay to terminating employment. Legal action can be taken in serious cases where the survivor would like to do so. And, as you mentioned, we also need reporting mechanisms that are safe for survivors, in part because employees may be supervised by the perpetrator and may fear consequences from stigma if confidentiality is not maintained. There is a lot of work to be done for all of us!

Good point! You are listening to Karim Stephan on Heart FM. We’ll be right back.

This is Radio Buzz Feed. Don’t touch that dial!


You are welcome back to Radio Buzz Feed on Heart FM with Karim Stephan.

Just a reminder to listeners that today’s discussion will cover topics such as rape in detail and may be disturbing to some listeners.

We have a caller on the line.

Hello, can you hear me?

Yes, I can hear you.

Good. You may or may not choose to tell us your name, due to the sensitive nature of today’s discussion, but kindly share your thoughts with us.

My name is Ama Broni and I’m calling from Taifa. I want to share my experience with you.

Please speak.

Yes, I was working as a bank marketing agent, and I had a huge target to meet. I had to talk people into opening a bank account with us, I mean big men with a certain kind of image and high-ranked individuals. I had to quit my job because most of these men would ask me for sexual favours before they agreed to bank with us. In the end, I couldn’t meet my target and I was questioned about non-performance. I was frustrated so I quit my job and went back to school. I’m now jobless and finding a new job even with a master’s degree still comes with some degree of sexual harassment. So now I want to start a small business. My main question is: what is the first thing to do if a person is raped at work?

HOST: I’m so sorry to hear what you experienced at your former employment. Joycelyn will answer your question.

Ama, although it is important to report abuse to the authorities, it is most important to ensure that survivors take care of themselves in terms of their emotional and physical health. Specifically, you can help survivors to seek medical care within the first 72 hours after the assault in order for contraception or treatment of HIV to be effective. They will be examined and their injuries treated. If the survivor is interested in pursuing legal avenues, the results of their medical care could serve as evidence. As an employer, you can make sure that they feel supported by you in whatever way they need, for example, with paid time off or access to counselling services.

Don’t forget also that this process can also help obtain forensic evidence that can contribute to the arrest of the perpetrator. A lot of women go home and wash down all the evidence before seeking help. If possible, we recommend that survivors go to the hospital for a thorough check before washing so that the doctors’ report can be as accurate as possible. This may help with identifying the perpetrator and holding them accountable.

Thank you for calling, Ama Broni, and we wish you the very best in your business.

Does sexualized and gender-based violence exist in rural workplaces? If so, what is the best way to deal with it in rural work spaces such as a farm, market place, or community centre?

Yes, it exists. Assault in rural communities should be treated seriously and complaints must be accepted and thoroughly investigated. Rural authorities like local police departments, town rulers, and local government assemblies dedicated to dealing with sexual harassment, exploitation, and other forms of SGBV.

If this happens, people will have confidence that their complaints will be taken seriously and that issues can be resolved fairly. Centres and agencies must be supported to provide survivors with financial, psychological, and professional guidance to address sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.

Our next caller is on the line. Hello, we can hear you, please talk to us. You may decide to tell us your name or not.

My name is Samson Oti, and I’m calling from Dobro. My question is … what if a lady you work with is provocatively dressed all the time and flirts with you every day? Would I be wrong to read meaning into her attitude and give her what it seems like she wants?

Thanks for your question, Samson. What you are talking about is a common misconception. You said it yourself, actually—you are interpreting her intention, which shows that you cannot actually be sure or decide for somebody else what they do and do not want.

Rape and harassment cannot be justified on the basis of someone’s appearance or way of dressing, or our interpretation of their communication as “flirting.” We must change our attitudes if we believe that, when a woman dresses in a particular way, it is equivalent to an invitation for sex. If you sexually harass a woman you work with because she flirts with you or dresses in a way that attracts you, this is inappropriate and constitutes sexual or gender-based violence, depending on the details.

There is no justification for any form of sexual or gender-based violence, which is defined by whether or not someone explicitly says that an action is wanted.

It’s important to note that, because a workplace always involves inequalities in power, when a person gives his or her boss or supervisor consent, it may be based on fear of losing their job. The validity of a person’s consent depends on whether it is given from fear of negative consequences and whether there is unequal power between people. It’s important to remember that consent given by someone with less power to someone with more power is not valid. The person with less power cannot give consent freely. This is true whether the situation involves a formal hierarchy of job roles or whether power imbalances are informal, such as differences in physical strength or access to transportation to physically leave a situation.

Thank you, Karim, for having us. My advice is that we must remain each other’s keepers and report any act of violence we witness to the authorities. However, we must do what is in the interest of the survivor—if possible, we should ask them what they need and prioritize what will make them feel safe and supported. Not all survivors will feel safe to report due to valid concerns of being stigmatized, or because of retaliation, or for other reasons.

Find out about the services available for survivors in your community, including health clinics and women’s centres, and share these options with survivors. If you are in a rural area and the survivor is comfortable with doing so, help them to report to the chief or the local assembly or labour office. If there are no labour offices in your community, reporting to the police may be an option, while keeping in mind that abuses of power can happen in any context so this may not always feel safe for the survivor.

Remember, support the survivor and respect their wishes to avoid further traumatizing or endangering them.

Ghana must enforce laws on violence and harassment at work, and enact measures to monitor how they are implemented in formal and informal workplaces. Women must be free to speak up and report sexual exploitation and harassment to the authorities so that perpetrators can be dealt with. This will serve as a deterrent to other perpetrators in the formal, informal, and rural sectors. And finally, remember that the real change will happen when we change how we socialize boys and men, in order to reduce harmful and discriminatory gendered norms and attitudes.

Yes, men who perpetrate violence are also negatively impacted by their own actions, just as our society is as a whole. Violence comes from a need to heal and we must also pay attention to this. We need to change what we teach men and boys about how they should behave toward others, especially women and girls, and shift harmful stereotypes about “what it means to be a man.” We can focus more on respect for others, for example, rather than physical strength and aggression. And, of course, we need to talk much more about consent.

Right! We have to make sure the roots are healthy, and not just the fruit. I know I will be talking to my son about how to respect everybody, especially girls and women.

Thank you, Kojo Addo and Joycelyn Okyere. I have indeed learnt so much from our discussion today and I believe our listeners have also been enlightened. Until we meet again, this is Karim Stephan, on Radio Buzz Feed, Heart 90.9 FM. It’s bye for now!



Contributed by: Abena Danso Dansoa, script writing and research consultant, Eagles Roar Creatives

Reviewed by: Gina Vukojevic, Gender, Equality and Inclusion (GEI) Officer


Mr. Kojo Addo, Social Worker – specializing in community development, policy advocacy, and youth development. November 2021 – January 2022.

Marina Anyidado, November 2021.

Jennifer Amoah, Communication and research consultant and sexual abuse advocate, November 2021 – January 2022.

Emefa Agbenu, trader. Lapaz, January, 2022.

Akosua Adobea Danso, receptionist, CIAST Group, November 2021 – January 2022.

Priscilla Armah Yawson, business owner (Gyasann Enterprise), January 2022.

Mr. Newman Aklamanu, tailor, November, 2021.

Janet Odei Danso, trader and market woman, November 2021.

This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.