The United Nations and the European Union in collaboration with other potential partners Tuesday converged at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, in Kololi, to observe the International Day for the elimination of violence against women as well as to reaffirm their commitments in defending the rights of women and girls against all forms of abuse.
The day is meant to raise awareness and remember the achievements so far being made in the long struggle that led to the signings of international conventions and protocols which seek to end violence against women and girls in our contemporary world. The day is also meant to send a clear message to perpetrators that violence against women and girls under any circumstance would be considered a criminal act, and to forge a way forward for better protection of their rights.
Speaking at the occasion, the UN resident coordinator in The Gambia, Chinwe M. Dike, said that violence against women has some potential implication on their lives, while noting that the UN respects the rights of all women and children and have put in mechanisms to end all forms of violence against them. She noted that UNFPA and UNDP both support all parliamentary bills to end violence against women. "Sustained economic development cannot be achieved without full participation of women," she added, while urging all players to fight all forms of violence against women and girls.
Madam Agnes Guillaud, the EU charge d' Affaires and head of the European delegation to The Gambia, said the day is meant to raise awareness about the appalling suffering that millions of women and girls face every day. She stressed that violence knows no geographical, culture, social, economic or education boundaries, adding that it is a phenomenon that affects all societies and takes many gruesome forms; from sexual harassment to FGM, forced marriage to honour killings among others. "Violence against women is arguably the most widespread human rights violation of our time. A violation that claims millions of victims every year and causes terrible physical and emotional pain," she added.
Madam Agnes also noted that no country is immune to the scourge of violence against women, for it is present in every country and cuts across boundaries of culture, class, education, income, ethnicity and age. "Up to 70% of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their life time and between 100 and 40 million girls and women in the world have experienced FGMs and more than 60 million girls worldwide are child brides and married before the age of 18," she disclosed.
Madam Agnes informed the gathering that the EU has a long-term political commitment to promoting women's and fighting against violence and discrimination against them.
Pamella Cole, WANEP's country coordinator, briefly expounded on the role of her organisation, saying they mainly focus on peace building. She intimated that research has shown that one out of three women faces violence by either beating or other forms of abuse. She opined that for any sustainable peace, there is a need for equal participation in development. "Without full participation, all the violence against women would remain a challenge," she remarked.
Other speakers included Kajali Sonko, deputy executive director of Women's Bureau; Neneh Cham, representative of the Female Lawyers Association; and Dr Isatou Touray, the executive director of Gamcotrap.