6 December 2017

Message From ECA Executive Secretary On 16 Days Activism On Violence Against Women

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MESSAGE FROM VERA SONGWE, ECA EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

UNiTE to END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN CAMPAIGN'S COMMEMORATION

16 DAYS ACTIVISM ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

FROM 25- NOVEMBER TO 11 DECEMBER 2017

The 16 Days of Activism on violence against women (VAW) runs from 25Th November 2017 to 11 December 2017. Initiated by the Secretary-General United Campaign to End Violence against Women, the 16 Days of Activism aims at harnessing our unprecedented determination and impactful action to end what is known as the defining challenge and shameful characteristic of our societies, on our continent, and worldwide.

Violence against women is pandemic in all countries, in all continents, and is experienced by all population groups irrespective of their socio-economic, political, cultural and religious status. Figures show[1] that on the African continent VAW is just as pandemic as in the rest of the other regions of the world. Such a pervasive issue is a result of enshrined discriminations against women and girls, and the inequality inherent in the power relationships between women and men; girls and boys, worldwide.

VAW takes various forms, intimate partner violence, Female Genital Mutilation/cutting; Child marriage to name but a few. It is experienced in the private sphere - home, community- and in public sphere such as schools and workplaces amongst others. 35% percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. Studies have found that women who have been physically abused by their partners are more than twice likely to have an abortion, they are almost twice likely to experience depression, and 1, 5 times more likely to be infected by HIV-AIDS as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence[2].

The prevalence of VAW is magnificent in Africa, especially intimate partner violence which is estimated at 65.6 % in Central Africa, 41, 8% in West Africa38.8 % in East Africa; 29.7% in Southern Africa and 35.4% in North Africa and the Middle East combined.[3]

Those compelling figures are however only indicative and do not reflect the full magnitude of the pandemic, due to the lack or limited accurate data. In addition, the realities, stories of women and girls that are behind the statistics are not always fully captured. Women and girls are violated, discriminated, marginalized only because they are women and they are girls. Deep, constructed social and cultural norms have taught societies/communities that women's and girls' voices do not matter, that they cannot, should not decide by themselves, for themselves and that they should be dependent on men and boys.

Such believes are indeed against all Human Rights conventions, treaties especially the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and its Protocol on the Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action, and many others global and continental normative frameworks that have reiterated and reaffirmed the women's rights are human rights.

Regrettably, 69 years after the Universal of Human Rights, 38 years after the adoption of CEDAW; 36 Years after the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and 12 years after the entering into force of the Maputo Protocol, violence against women remains widespread on the continent and is indeed, one of the key development issues.

While to date, 49 countries have signed the Maputo Protocol, only 37 States have ratified it and 2 have either signed or ratified this landmark framework[4] for women's dignity and security in Africa. Notwithstanding, it is encouraging to note that many African countries have taken a step further to domesticate the Maputo Protocol and many of the global frameworks. At least 36 of the 54 African countries have enacted legislation defining and addressing various forms of violence. There were very few in 1993 when the World Conference on Human Rights declared violence against women a violation of human rights[5]

However, the domestication of the Protocol is very slow and patchy and calls for greater actions by Member States. Failing to do so will negatively impact Africa's growth prospects, structural transformation, and sustainable development. The continent cannot afford to miss the 2030 cut off date of global sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Let us all together reiterate our unique, action-oriented commitment to end VAW. Let's us take strong, impactful actions to realize a continent free of violence, a continent where the rights of women and girls are promoted, respected and indeed a REALITY that we will all cherish. We owe it to ourselves, and to the next generations of African Girls, Women, and All African.

[1] African Center for Gender , "Facts sheet on Violence against women in Africa", compiled in November 2017

[2] UNWOMEN - Facts and Figures: Ending Violence against women; ECA-UNWOMEN (2013), "Who pays? The socio-economic cost of violence against women in Africa., with a focus on intimate partner violence"

[3] Garcia-Moreno, Claudia, C. Pallitto, K. Devries, H Stockl, C. Watts , and N. Abrahams (2013), "Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-partner Sexual Violence", World Health Organization, Geneva][4] Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Paper 295, July 2016, "Women, Peace and Security. Implementing the Maputo Protocol in Africa"

[5] African Union Commission African Gender Scorecard, 2016 on the theme "Year of African Human Rights with a focus on Women's Rights", 2016

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