International Women's Day 2020: Ending Gender-based Violence in Africa
Across the world, statistics on gender-based violence (GBV) are as alarming as they are threatening to life and its dignities. According to the World Bank, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. It is further projected that one in three women globally will face some form of abuse in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.
In Africa, the situation is far worse. While the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence among female youths (15-24) ranges from 29.4%-31.6%, in Sub-Saharan Africa, WHO estimated 65.64%.
Therefore, Africa requires sustained conversations across many platforms, drastic measures and coordinated efforts by governments, civil society organisations, activists and individuals to curtail the GBV situation.
It is the in light of the above that at the 2020 International Women’s Day Celebrations, the Africa We Want project used the occasion to host a twitter forum on the Africa We Want twitter page with two key gender activists on the continent.
The twitter forum held on March 10, hosted the CEO of East African Civil Society Forum, Martha Makenge, and ActionAid Zambia Country Director, Nalucha Nganga-Ziba to discuss the theme: Generation Equality – Ending Gender-based Violence in Africa. By facilitating this Twitter Forum, the Africa We Want project wanted to give a space for Martha and Nalucha to share their views and experience in the field of ending gender-based violence on the African continent.
The article presents the highlights of the conversation with the prominent activists.
Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on progress and structural causes
Commencing the discussion, Martha and Nalucha shared their views on the significance of the International Women’s day:
Martha underscored the day as an opportunity to reflect on the progress made on women’s rights while Nalucha emphasized the importance of organizations addressing structural causes of gender inequality.
GBV is not limited to specific place, age, wealth or culture
Explaining the forms of violence against women prevalent in the respective countries, Martha replied:
Martha pointed out 3 things: First, the high percentage of women who will face GBV during their lifetime, second, the different types of violence (physical, sexual, psychological, economic) and third, the wide range of the violence. The violence against women is not limited to specific social groups defined by age, race, wealth, geography or culture. Even though violence against women is widespread – a global pandemic – it is still not recognized as a major human rights violation, she explains.
Nalucha supported the statements of Martha:
She explains that gender-based violence is not restricted to the home, it also occurs within school environments, educational institutions, workplaces and other spaces. Nalucha identifies some of the forms of gender-based violence: physical abuse, marital rape, economic abuse, child abuse, sexual harassment and sexual abuse.
Legal frameworks to deal with GBV
On available legal frameworks to deal with gender-based violence Nalucha mentioned the following:
Nalucha further narrowed down on the available frameworks in Zambia, her home country, mentioning Zambian legal framework, the Anti Gender based Violence Act. She, however, added that the implementation and operationalization of the Act has been ineffective and slowed down due to lack of funds.
Martha also identified similar lack of implementation and effect in Tanzania:
Government responsibility and CSO responsibility
The two gender activists proceeded to proffer solutions on how to fight against GBV and control its causes.
Martha first indicated what governments can do:
According to Martha, governments should provide accessible, effective and quality prevention of GBV as well as response services by enhancing the capacity of duty bearers like police, judiciary and health workers. They should also support public education campaigns on GBV and harmonize penal laws on a regional level.
She follows up by adding what Civil Society Organizations can do:
CSOs should strengthen the capacity of national mechanisms to contribute to the prevention of GBV. They should also work on transforming attitudes towards GBV by speaking out about it and engaging community elders in the fight against GBV.
An important part of this is to change the way violence against girls and women is addressed, Nalucha added: From a victim-centered to a perpetrator-centered messaging, addressing the root of the matter and not blaming or shaming the girls for the abuse they have experienced.
Nalucha pointed out the effect of how issues are addressed and framed by CSOs in their quest to fight the GBV menace. According to her, the victim-centered messaging, talking about the number of girls harassed instead of the numbers of boys and men harassing, is taking focus away from the real problem: the perpetrators.
Women must refuse to wear the shame
Asked what girls and women should do if they experience abuse or harassment, and Nalucha had a prompt answer:
Nalucha explained, that women should not feel ashamed if they experience abuse, since the perpetrators are to blame for the violation. Instead women should seek support because many organizations and institutions exist to support them.
Through the discussion it has become clear that violence against women and girls is still prevalent and widespread throughout different social groups and different spheres of the lives of women. Legal frameworks aimed at fighting the GBV exist, on a continental as well as national level, but lack of fund and political will means that the legal frameworks are not implemented or operationalized effectively. Both government and CSO’s share responsibility do address these issues and counteract them. And women and girls shall refuse to wear the blame and shame if they are subjected to violence.
The Africa We Want thanked Nalucha and Martha for participating and enlightening followers on the matter of GBV: