End violence against women and girls
Today marks the beginning of 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign whose aim is to sensitise organisations and the public on the need to prevent and end violence against women and girls.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is one of the most pervasive human rights violations and takes many forms including sexual assault, murder, female genital cutting and forced child marriages.
Recent global estimates show that more than one in three women experience GBV in their lifetime —this represents more than 33 per cent of the global women population. Similarly, one in five women aged 20-24 were married off before turning 18 in 2021 and less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seek help.
On average, a woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes.
These numbers paint a grim picture of the plight of many women and girls, hence making a sufficient argument for urgent calls for strategic policies and programmes to mitigate its effects.
Usually, times of economic uncertainty such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing drought, the global economic depression, the ravaging effects of climate change and civil unrest are linked to a hoard of risk factors for heightened violence against women, girls and children.
For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic intensified violence against women, exposing and worsening structural inequalities in society and reversing decades of progress on women’s participation in the labour force, raised the number of women living in extreme poverty and increased the burden of unpaid care and domestic work, all of which aggravate the risk factors of violence.
As the campaigns take off, a number of issues are rearing their heads, threatening to worsen the already deteriorating state of affairs. Activists are concerned by the backlash against women’s rights. Similarly, there is a rise in the number of anti-feminist groups and attacks on women’s rights defenders. The legal status of women’s rights is also increasingly at risk in many countries.
Failure to address GBV means a significant cost to the future of the country. Studies show that children who grow up in violent homes grow up to become survivors or perpetrators of violence.
But there is hope. Hope in the knowledge that this vice can be prevented by policy change, strengthening women's movements and involving everybody in the fight.
More importantly, we ought to empower survivors and help amplify their voices to show the masses what violence actually looks like.