29 November 2012

Gambia: Stopping Violence Against Women

editorial

The International Day for the elimination of violence against women has again been celebrated. Stakeholders converged at the Kairaba Beach Hotel to reaffirm their commitment to defending the rights of women and girls against all forms of abuse.Each year, the day comes and goes with violence against women and girls widespread in the world. It is therefore time that words are transformed into action for every woman and girl to live in dignity on this earth.

Women are an integral part of society. Without them, the advancement of society will only be wishful thinking. This is because it is the combination of men and women working together in unison and harmony that produces societal growth and development. Neither men nor women alone can by themselves achieve any meaningful socio-economic transformation.

Violence and discrimination of one sex hinders the march towards development, and is a crime against humanity. Now that the human society has advanced greatly, it is important for the people to commit themselves to ensure that the societal patriarchy that has relegated women for so long to the back seat be eliminated for good.

Through amalgamated efforts, we must make the campaign to stop violence against women not only the business of the female folk but also those of men too. Everyone must speak publicly on violence against women and girls in society. We must challenge our male politicians to speak out and persuade our imams, priests and other religious leaders to preach against male violence. We must call out to the men in their professional associations and clubs and dare them to speak out. Every man and every boy must be made to realise the price they ask their women to pay so that their machismo remains intact.

It must be shouted at every corner, preached from every pulpit, debated in every forum that domestic violence will not be tolerated in our civilised society and that those who act in breach will face the full force of the law. The victims must not remain anonymous or faceless. We have to encourage the victims to talk about their experiences and their fears, and assist them to find strength in their adversity. Men and boys must join the fight because our women and girls have suffered greatly because of violence and for so long have wept in secret.

Let each woman hold up the mirror to a man's face. Does she really admire the man in the mirror? No more hiding or justification of a wanton wrong. Women must realise that their reticence shields the criminal. Women must know that their misplaced feelings of guilt protect the man from accepting responsibility for the violence and changing for the better. Victims must know that the guilt and shame is not theirs and that they need not carry anyone else's burden. Let's all come clean and work together, determined to restore the dignity and unique integrity of society.

As the saying goes "whoever empowers a woman empowers a nation". We therefore have to rise to the challenge to be part of those people who empower a nation. Women and girls deserve all the conditions necessary to permit them to excel in society; any denial of such conditions tantamounts to the denial of social progress.

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