KAMPALA – This is a global human rights challenge. The social and economic fallout from covid pandemic is disproportionately pushing women and girls into poverty and the risk of violence against them rising. Gender-based violence is a shadow pandemic and should end.
Violence can happen to every woman, no matter age, education, status, employment, position, or culture. Gender-based violence is a real problem in all spaces. One in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual, gender-economic violence mostly by male perpetrators within their spaces.
The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25th November, the international day for the elimination of violence against women, runs until 10th December, Human Rights Day. It was started by activists at the inaugural women’s global leadership institute in 1991 and countries to be coordinated annually with various themes.
The 2021 theme is “Orange the Word End Violence against women Now”. Violence against women and girls is a human rights issue and we need to address it. In these 16 Days of activism, we must challenge and denounce cultural practices that perpetuate gender inequalities. This gender inequality drives gender-based violence. There is need to amplify the call for national action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during covid 19 crisis focus on prevention and improve lifesaving services for women and girls.
There is need to renew our individual, societal, and national commitments to end violence against women. Regrettably, as countries implemented covid 19 measures to stop the spread of the virus violence against women, especially domestic violence intensified. School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, forced marriage, and harassment.
To arrange the world means to strengthen actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to Covid 19. Ending violence against women requires more investment, leadership, and action. The voices of activists and survivors should be amplified so that they form part of the national response. We can orange the world and make a difference every single day in the fight against violence against women.
We must also prioritize women’s leadership in finding solutions and engaging men in the struggle. Advocacy and lobbying for flexible funding for women’s rights organizations that act as first respondents to the crisis are key. Services for survivors of violence should be accessible, affordable, convenient reachable, and remain open with adequate resources and measures in place to support health, social, and justice responses.
Preventative measures should be in place than intervening measures after violence has occurred. Measures should prevent violence occurrence in the first place including addressing social norms and power imbalances, and police and judicial systems need to increase, accountability for perpetrators and end impunity. Let us re-double our efforts to eradicate gender-based violence forever.
Similar to the covid 19 response, we must respond to gender-based violence with all hands on the deck, with responsive investment and protocol backed by determination. Violence against women is a pandemic one that pre-dates heal the pandemic with disastrous consequences and needs to stop in its tracks.
This may require coordinated response and enforceable protocols. It too affects vast populations of all ages. Last year alone 243 million women and girls experienced sexual or physical violence from their partners. This year reports of increased domestic violence, cyberbullying, child marriages, sexual harassment, and sexual violence have flooded in.
There is need to orange the world by investing more expertise and energy in funding a sustainable global solution to end gender-based violence. Flattening the curve of violence against women requires a joint effort. There is need for collaboration to end violence against women and girls across all sectors, at societal level, community, family and individual levels.
Women must have full access to justice with reliable prosecution of perpetrators of violence and effective prevention of these crimes. Equally important are the cultural changes that help prevent violence against women and girls in the first place. We must shift the stereotypes and attitudes that shame survivors and normalize and excuse the perpetrators. We must engage allies in this including men and boys.
All these interventions must occur concurrently, continuously, in collaboration and at scale to succeed. While the economics of violence are simple and devastating, no one gains. Everyone loses and we have to resolve to put our combines resources and commitment to end violence against women and girls. We need the will to do it and with generation equality, lead the way.
This writer, Ms. Esther Buringi is a renowned human rights defender