While women are typically the primary targets of gender-based violence, its impact extends beyond the individual to society as a whole. Specialists point out that GBV undermines family dynamics, as children experience emotional harm from witnessing their mothers and sisters being abused. This can lead to the dissolution of households, placing added financial strain and negative societal consequences on the new female heads of household. In some cases, victims of GBV may also inadvertently transfer their frustrations onto their children. ALSO READ: Effects of GBV to watch out for Annette Mukiga, a feminist and co-founder of Bold Women Rwanda, an NGO that celebrates, inspires and supports girls' and women’s resilience and potential for social and economic transformation, said GBV imposes fear on victims, to the point that they start living in uncertainty. She noted that although physical wounds hurt and are easily seen, psychological wounds are way more dangerous because the pain triggers trauma, insomnia, depression, and suicidal tendencies. ALSO READ: How Gender-Based Violence affects mental health of the victim Mukiga said the law on prevention and punishment of gender-based violence in place has contributed to lessening GBV cases as victims are aware of their rights and can report it. She urges women not to stay silent but to speak up when undergoing barbarity, and seek professional help. “All information regarding GBV should be provided in all places especially in rural areas so that GBV victims acquire knowledge about what GBV is, its causes, and how to find help.” Mukiga also noted that GBV is mostly fuelled by gender inequalities, abuse of power, disrespect of human rights, and discrimination, among others, which is why averting it requires finding solutions to the root cause. “People think that women overdemand, but this is a problem that can’t be solved by one person, we need to contribute to preventing it, for instance, men ought to call out their fellow men if they are perpetrators but not side with them,” she stated. She highlighted the need to act to prevent violence by facilitating access to post-GBV care services and supporting and training more community teams and social workers to act as a GBV response team. Finding solutions Rwanda and the rest of the world are currently observing the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Experts emphasise the impact of GBV on both individuals and society as a whole, and the importance of involving men in efforts to end it. Dr Theresa Uwitonze, a clinical psychologist at mHub, a Kicukiro-based mental health organisation, said whether emotional or psychological, economic, physical or sexual violence, there are programmes that address a variety of structural and cultural factors, such as definitions of violence and issues around gender and power. Some include conflict resolution and communication skills, and social action activities. She urges an active engagement of men and boys in the fight against GBV and promoting gender equality and GBV prevention in educational institutions. Uwitonze explained that prevention initiatives are educational group programmes, based in schools or the community. Particularly programmes that are based on teaching knowledge and skills required to change attitudes and behaviours that lead to GBV. “There is a need to strengthen sensitisation to promote understanding of gender and positive social norms and attitudes within the community, and providing appropriate sensitisation for parents and guardians.” Uwitonze further noted that people ought to be educated, especially the youth on reproductive health, specifically on sexuality and biological changes. She also added that more mobilisation from the government and media is necessary to ensure awareness of GBV. Uwitonze stressed the need to integrate work with perpetrators into long-term activities of prevention and treatment of them psychologically. She also added that the media must be engaged in broadening the knowledge of evidence about GBV so that every citizen in Rwanda understands the situation concerning GBV. “We should develop strategies to awaken individual responsibility in fighting GBV, improve coordination and messaging on gender and GBV, and provide support to community-based prevention programmes.” She added that some of the response strategies are to identify a minimum package of support to victims and perpetrators, build on existing services and develop new services that are victim-centred and take into account their special needs (individual and group therapy). She added that there is a need to expand access to short and long-term support services, with particular programmes targeting vulnerable groups, and ensure that adequate financial resources are allocated to support services at the community level. “Efforts should also be put at strengthening the referral process and coordination of multidisciplinary approach for interventions and referral and reporting on cases,” Uwitonze said.