Gender violence high on activism campaign’s agenda
By Nyarai Kampilipili
Violence against women and girls is a pandemic in southern Africa and an obstacle to equality, development, peace and human rights according to the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, in her contribution to the 16 days of Activism against gender violence.
The annual global campaign is dedicated to raising awareness and advocacy to end violence against women and girls.
The campaign runs every year from 25 November, which marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to 10 December, which is dedicated as Human Rights Day.
“We cannot be silent and inactive on gender violence as a region,” Dr Tax said, adding that silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions.
She said “in realizing that violence against women and girls continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights,” the region has come up with various measures to address the challenge.
For example, a number of regional strategic documents and frameworks including the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security considers gender violence as a critical area of concern.
In fact, these regional documents clearly affirm the principles of women empowerment and gender equality, and recognize the prevention and reduction of gender violence as a catalyst for attaining an environment conducive for peace and security.
The Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development identifies gender violence as an area of concern and proposes several approaches to addressing this pandemic. The protocol provides for the empowerment of women, elimination of discrimination and attainment of gender equality and equity through enactment of gender-responsive legislation and implementation of policies, programmes and projects.
The protocol was revised in 2016 to align with the provisions of other instruments such as the Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2063 and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063.
Dr Tax said to intensify the fight against gender violence, SADC has put in place other legal frameworks such as the Regional Gender Violence Strategy 2018-2030 and its Framework of Action and the SADC Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security 2018 – 2022.
The SADC Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security gives due attention to the need to include women in national security sector institutions and processes and the need to combat any human rights violations of women and children with emphasis on combatting sexual gender violence.
The SADC Regional Gender Based Violence Strategy was developed to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development with a specific focus on Articles addressing gender violence.
SADC also developed the 10 Year Strategic Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2009 – 2019). Gender violence is used to manipulate and control women, men, boys and girls who fall victim of trafficking in persons and forced labour.
According to the secretariat, these measures coupled with other efforts continue to yield positive results in addressing gender violence
“In the last decade, we have seen the issue of gender violence moving from the shadows to the foreground of commitments and actions to attain sustainable development,” Dr Tax said.
“Global actions like the 16 Days Campaign are some of the initiatives that continue to provide an opportunity to mobilize global, regional and national actions against gender violence.”
She urged all SADC member states to intensify action aimed at prevention of gender violence and to strengthen related services, as well as “create platforms for giving a voice to the voiceless, including safe reporting, provision of shelters and places of safety for victims and survivors of gender violence.”
The United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said it is still unclear what the extent of violence against women is as most fear reprisal.
She said there is a stigma associated with gender violence and this has silenced victims from reporting such cases, hence it is critical for the global community to unmask the true extent of these continued horrific experiences.
This year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence encourage people to speak out and act against it.
Southern African News Features are produced by the Southern African Research Documentation Centre (SARDC). Website and Virtual Library at www.sardc.net