FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

7 December 2012

Gambia: University Students Discuss Violence Against Women

Violence against women and girls is a problem reaching pandemic proportions which is also a human rights violation. Many young women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their life time. It was in this view that the University of the Gambia, 'youth Action Movement' and 'Think Young Women' organised a program at the Girl's Guide Hall, as part of the commemoration of the international day to end all violence against women, as well as events marking the 16 days of activism.

Introduction and welcoming remarks by Sait Matty Jaw hinted mostly on violence experienced by women globally, inflicted by an intimate partner, with women beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused. He said that involving men in the fight against the menace will greatly reduce the inhumane act.

He said: "Elimination of violence against women should be our moral duty. We must dismantle belief systems, social structures, and institutional practices that oppress women and dehumanize men themselves".

According to the WHO "Men's use of violence is in itself usually part of an affirmation of male norms and masculinities, in addition to being part of a power structure in which men with more power lead older boys and men, men in dominant social classes) subjugate younger boys". Therefore, he said, men have a crucial role to play as fathers, brothers, friends, decision makers, and community and opinion leaders, in speaking out against violence against women and girls and ensuring that priority attention is given to the issue. Importantly, men can provide positive role models for young men and boys, based on healthy images of masculinity, he analysed.

For many years, Matty said women around the universe have led efforts to prevent and put an end to violence, but today more men are adding their support to the movement. As part of the growing efforts to include men as part of the solution to prevent and end violence, university of the Gambia, youth action movement and think young women started an initiative that will be led by young men, as part of the initiative. He said after this young men's forum, they would also be embarking on activities like the 'Bike Wear Organ' campaign and also handing over a pledge to law makers to take action, Mr. Jaw explained.

"Its unfortunate that we did not receive funding from any institution for this event but we are committed to ending violence against women and girls and took up the challenge to organise the forum. We therefore call on donors to support us to make the other activities of this initiative a reality."

Mr. Sait Matty Jaw thanked the organising committee, youth action movement, University of the Gambia, think young women and everyone present for making the day a great success.

Given the keynote address on 16 days Activism, Haddy Mboge Barrow, coordinator of NGBV and RAC said she is honoured and privileged to give the keynote address of the noble gathering which joins the global world in commemorating the 16 days of activism. "16 days of activism against gender based violence is commemorated yearly around the globe for awareness creation and triggering action on ending this pervasive human rights violation" Quoting from (UN Women, 2012)".

She said originating from the first women's global leadership institute which was coordinated by the center for women's global leadership in 1991, the 16 days of activism occur during the commemoration of other significant dates that are equally related to gender based violence or human rights.

"In Gambia like elsewhere in the world, the 16 days campaign has been used as an organised strategy by individuals, groups and institutions to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women", advanced Haddy Mboge Barrow, while presenting her keynote address.

She said GBV is an umbrella term used to describe any harmful acts perpetrated against a person's will that has a negative impact on the physical or psychological health, development and identity of a person.

An act that emanate from gendered power inequities due to our distinctive features, nature or sex between male and female, among men or women, she said.

Haddy Mboge Barrow, coordinator of NGBV and RAC went on to assert that although not exclusively perpetrated against women and girls, GBV principally affects women and girls mostly across all cultures. She said Studies show that men and boys are also victims of GBV, especially as it relates to trafficking in persons' acts, conflict related issues and deceitful educational promises. However it is important to note that GBV is primarily intended to maintain gender inequalities, patriarchy, as a means to reinforce traditional gender roles for both men and women, she stressed. She added that the Gambia joins other nations in the fight against GBV and that is why it has signed and ratified major legal instruments that prevent and criminalise violence against women." With the above ratification and enactment of the mentioned legal frameworks, sensitizations and empowerment initiatives, one would assume that the Gambia has conquered the battle on gender based violence, she opined. This is far from reality because challenges still exist, she maintains. She added that greater ignorance still lingers among the public, especially in understanding and popularizing these legal frameworks and policies. She said The Gambia has a highly patriarchal society where men are the sole decision makers, a problem which she said is associated with socio-cultural beliefs and values. "As a result, women and girls become subordinate and are positioned at the lower rungs of the social ladder with very little opportunity for active participation in making decisions, especially family, clan or community levels", opined Haddy Mboge Barrow, Coordinator of NGBV and RAC.

Haddy went on to inform that the desk review on GBV commissioned by the NGBV indicated that women and girls are increasingly bearing the brunt of violence with men being the perpetrators- as parents, guardians, teachers, adults in position of authority, boy friends, partners etc. She however said the study did also show that main forms of violence that exist include not limited to rape, incest, domestic violence and abuse. All these she said are a resultant of our socialization process as women, men, boys and girls".

She also said that there are some religious leaders who have strong influence in our society who consider "Women's right", albeit erroneously, as a western ploy to destabilize families and Islam. This problem coupled with culture of silence and stigma surrounding violence against women and girls she opined result in unwillingness by families to report cases to the police or serve as witnesses in courts. She is of the view that women often "Accept" domestic violence because most of the women are socialized to believe that it is just for men to beat their wives or partners. Also domestic violence is seen as a private matter, she added. She also said there are also major child protection concerns that are politically/religiously sensitive and are not adequately addressed in the legal frameworks namely; female genital cutting and child marriage.

In her concluding remarks, the coordinator of NGBV and RAC Haddy Mboge Barrow, re-echoed the sub-theme for the campaign "Enough is enough" which was very timely and in the right direction if all especially our young men buy in the campaign slogan, the problems of gender based violence and violence against women will end.

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