An official with the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission says reparations have been paid to about 20,000 victims of the country's long-running civil war. She says the Commission would like to extend this program to a further 12,000 victims, but lacks the funds needed to provide cash grants and skills training to these people.
Tens of thousands of people suffered horrific abuse during Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002. Two years later, Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up a reparations program to redress some of the worst consequences of the war.
Field Supervisor for the reparations program in Sierra Leone, Hawa Sese, says women were hardest hit by the war.
She tells VOA women were raped, used as sex slaves, their husbands and children were killed. She says the torment many women experienced during the war continues to this day.
"It is difficult for these women because most of these women who were sexually abused, some of them were not accepted back into their communities," said Sese. "When a woman is being raped they are ostracized by their community, the stigmatization. Some of these women have been living-even if there is no more war-they have been living in a war situation because they have war in their own minds, within themselves."
Sese says many women are forced into prostitution to care for their families. She says many survive by begging on the street.
In recognition of the many problems confronting women, Sese says the war reparations program is specifically tailored to meet the pressing needs of victims of sexual violence.
She says more than 60 percent of those registered in the program are women. "It is timely because the women are really suffering in Sierra Leone and they need an extra hand," said Sese. "They need to be trained. They need to be given capacity so that they can restore their dignity once more and they need to be trained in livelihood skills so that they can be able to take care of their homes even if there is no husband."
The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) is providing technical assistance to Sierra Leone's reparations program for victims of sexual violence. Hawa Sese was in Geneva to confer with officials from IOM about their joint activities.
The German government, the U.N. Peace Building Fund and U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence against women are providing money for the Sierra Leone Reparations Program. Despite this, IOM says $8 million is urgently needed to continue vital assistance to all victims of Sierra Leone's brutal and long civil war.