Commemorated from November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10th (Human Rights Day) since 1991, the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women and Girls Campaign aims to galvanize individual and popular commitment to combating and preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG), a global scourge affecting one in three women in her lifetime. Four out of ten women (40%) in West Africa and almost six out of nine (65%) in Central Africa are victims of violence, according to a study by the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa.
Violence against women and girls remains one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world. It is estimated that one woman in three (76 million) has suffered physical, and/or sexual violence at the hands of her intimate partner. Violence that could have been avoided. More than four out of five women and girls (86%) live in countries with no solid legal protection, or where statistics simply don’t exist. Sadly, violence against women and girls remains commonplace, with very little political commitment to its eradication.
For the 2023 edition, the United Nations, under the aegis of the Secretary-General, is commemorating the 16 days of activism under the theme: “ UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls“. A plea that calls on governments, institutions, the private sector, and individual citizens to mobilize, commit and demonstrate their commitment to eliminating violence against women and girls.
Despite the upsurge in violence against women and girls, only 0.2% of official development assistance is allocated to the prevention of gender-based violence. One in four countries (25%) have no system for monitoring budget allocations in favor of gender equality. To reverse this trend, this year particular emphasis is being placed on the importance of funding various prevention strategies to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.
“Violence against women and girls is a real brake on development, and we call on governments, institutions, the private sector, donor communities and all people of good will to invest more in women’s empowerment programs, to fund and support women’s organizations in order to put an end to violence against women and girls,” says Dr. Maxime Houinato, Regional Director a.i. of UN Women West and Central Africa.
Women’s rights organizations, which are at the forefront of the struggle but paradoxically have the least resources, suffer from a chronic lack of funding, as they receive only 5% of official development aid allocated to combating violence against women. However, by combining efforts and allocating more funding to feminist organizations, it is possible to achieve tangible results:
A positive change in the political environment, research has shown that having strong feminist movements is the most important factor in advancing the fight against violence against women and girls.
The provision of life-saving services, holistic assistance including shelters, counseling, legal aid and helplines – this brings a lifeline to survivors and helps them rebuild their lives.
More support for women in health and humanitarian emergencies – The number of women and girls living in conflict situations has increased by 50%, making millions more vulnerable to gender-based violence. Studies have reported significant progress towards gender equality when women are actively involved in conflict and emergency management, and when humanitarian action focuses on women’s rights organizations and autonomous groups.
The reduction in acts of violence against women and girls: in South Africa, for example, pilot initiatives (Projet IMAGE) involving micro-financing and training in community mobilization and gender equality have reduced violence within couples by less than 50% in two years.
Fortunately, progress, albeit timid, is being made in some African countries. In 2022, the Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire passed laws to protect women against various forms of domestic violence.
Legislation against sexual harassment in the workplace, providing for criminal sanctions and civil remedies, has also been adopted by the Congo. Countries like Senegal have also seen the creation of associations and organizations of Gender Information and Communication Professionals. What’s more, since 2015, the African Union has introduced a gender scorecard aimed at measuring progress made at national level on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the seven key sectors of health, employment, business, access to credit, land, women’s participation in politics and decision-making, as well as girls’ attainment of secondary and tertiary levels of education.
Women’s rights organizations are committed to creating a safer, fairer, and more just society for women and girls around the world, and a brighter, more promising future for all. In a world where the need for gender equality and violence prevention remains urgent, governments and institutions must recognize, strengthen, and invest in the unwavering efforts of women’s organizations.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Women – Africa.