Step­ping up ef­forts to end vi­o­lence against women in Africa

Africa Renewal - - Africa Watch - By Ying M. Zhao-Hie­mann

The In­ter­na­tional Day for the Elim­i­na­tion of Vi­o­lence against Women ob­served on 25 Novem­ber marks an im­por­tant oc­ca­sion to re­flect on the cur­rent state of sex­ual vi­o­lence in Africa.

Be­ing one of the most se­vere forms of gen­der-based vi­o­lence, sex­ual vi­o­lence, which in­cludes rape, gang rape and sex­ual slav­ery, is wide­spread in times of con­flict, post-con­flict and dis­place­ment.

“From Nige­ria to So­ma­lia to Mali, we are see­ing a height­en­ing of tar­geted vi­o­lence against women, girls and their com­mu­ni­ties as ex­trem­ists take con­trol of ter­ri­tory,” Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of UN Women, re­cently told the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

In 2014 alone, sev­eral such in­ci­dents made in­ter­na­tional head­lines. In April, 200 school girls from Chi­bok in north­east Nige­ria were kid­napped by Boko Haram, a mil­i­tant Is­lamist group, and have not been re­leased to date. In Novem­ber, more than 200 women and girls in Tabit, North Dar­fur in Su­dan, were re­ported to have been mass raped, caus­ing a new wave of in­ter­na­tional con­cern. The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil called for a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent.

“It is crit­i­cal that in the process of ver­i­fy­ing the facts that the safety of sur­vivors is of paramount con­cern,” said

Zainab Hawa Ban­gura, the UN Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Sex­ual Vi­o­lence in Con­flict.

Dur­ing her ear­lier mis­sion to Su­dan, Ms. Ban­gura was ap­palled by the ex­tent of sex­ual vi­o­lence in the coun­try, where it is fre­quently used as a po­lit­i­cal tool and weapon of war.

“What I wit­nessed in Ben­tiu is the worst I have seen in my almost 30 years of deal­ing with this is­sue,” said Ms. Ban­gura, com­ment­ing on an in­ci­dent dur­ing which hun­dreds of civil­ians were mas­sa­cred in April 2014 and many more were raped.

The UN has a se­ries of ini­tia­tives to help ad­dress in­ci­dents of sex­ual vi­o­lence in con­flict, post-con­flict and dis­place­ment sit­u­a­tions, by in­creas­ing women’s po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion and eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence, as well as of­fer­ing them vic­tim coun­selling ser­vices.

To ad­dress the im­por­tance of gen­der per­spec­tives in peace pro­cesses, UNAMID or­ga­nized a Global Open Day in El Fasher on 20 Novem­ber 2014. The fo­rum brought to­gether more than 140 women rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the five Dar­fur states to dis­cuss the role of women in peace, urg­ing all par­ties “to take spe­cial mea­sures to pro­tect women and girls from gen­der-based vi­o­lence.”

The women later marched to mark “16 Days of Ac­tivism against Gen­der-Based Vi­o­lence”, an an­nual cam­paign that starts on the In­ter­na­tional Day to End Vi­o­lence Against Women (25 Novem­ber) and ends on Hu­man Rights Day (1 De­cem­ber). The women were joined by staff mem­bers of the African Union, UNAMID and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Mean­while, in East Africa, UN Women and the Kenya Red Cross are jointly im­ple­ment­ing a liveli­hood project to help dis­placed So­mali women in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, help­ing them to earn a liv­ing through agri­cul­ture and fend for them­selves. In ad­di­tion, UN Women, the UN agency on gen­der is­sues, is also sup­port­ing a heal­ing project run by the So­ma­lia Youth De­vel­op­ment Net­work to train com­mu­nity lead­ers to con­duct heal­ing fo­rums for for­mer rape vic­tims in the Be­nadir Re­gion.

UN Women part­ners with gov­ern­ments, UN agen­cies, civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions and other in­sti­tu­tions to ad­vo­cate for end­ing vi­o­lence, in­crease aware­ness of the causes and con­se­quences of vi­o­lence and build ca­pac­ity of part­ners to pre­vent and re­spond to vi­o­lence. The gen­der agency also sup­ports ex­pand­ing ac­cess to qual­ity so­cial ser­vices to sur­vivors cov­er­ing safety, shel­ter, health, jus­tice and other es­sen­tial ser­vices. Pol­icy guid­ance helps to step up in­vest­ments in preven­tion— the most cost-ef­fec­tive, long-term means to stop vi­o­lence against women.

UN Photo/Al­bert González Far­ran

Women in North Dar­fur, Su­dan, march for “16 Days of Ac­tivism Against Gen­der-Based Vi­o­lence”.

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