Southern Africa: Women’s empowerment key to ending violence

Date: November 21, 2014
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Johannesburg, 21 November: Under the banner Peace begins at home: End Violence! Empower Women! Gender Links is calling for a radical shift in approaches to ending violence during the Sixteen Days of Activism from 25 November to 10 December.

“Gender violence is a symptom of a much deeper malaise – the gender inequality that pervades every aspect of our lives,” said GL CEO Colleen Lowe Morna. “We cannot talk about ending violence without talking about women’s political, economic and social empowerment.”

GL will kick off its campaign with breakfast meetings in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana to profile the achievements of over 1000 survivors of gender violence who have received entrepreneurship training and are “Taking Charge” of their lives. These meetings will bring together high profile representatives of government, civil society and the business community.

“For many years we listened to survivors of gender violence tell their stories, what we call the “I” stories,” Lowe Morna said. “We realised that in almost every instance women go back into abusive relationships because they have no options. Economic empowerment and independence does not necessarily mean an end to violence but it is a key pre-condition.”

According to the Economic Commission for Africa, the incidence of violence against women in some African countries may be up to five times that of some developed economies. It is estimated that reported acts of violence cost between 1% and 12% of GDP. The monthly cost of violence against women is 20 times that of average medical expenditure for a household.

Speaking at the African Beijing Plus Twenty Review in Addis Ababa on 19 November, UNECA Executive Secretary Carlos Lopes noted that despite growth of over 5% over the last decade, “Africa has not been capable of propelling strong transformation of its economic realities. Without jobs, inclusion, and social distribution the good news is limited. We cannot build dynamic African countries, if women and girls, who form the majority of the population, remain marginalised or excluded.”

Lopes announced a Continent-Wide Initiative for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, covering economic empowerment; women’s human rights and the social sector. The review of the Fourth World Conference on Women that took place in Beijing in 1995, next year coincides with the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Goal five concerns gender equality. It has a strong emphasis on ending violence in the broader context of women’s political, social and economic empowerment.

GL’s Gender Based Violence (GBV) Indicators studies, show that the most violence takes place behind closed doors, perpetrated by family and intimate partners, and highlights the importance of peace in the home and the need for women to be safe in both private and public spheres.

The studies found high levels of GBV in all six countries surveyed, with the highest incidence in Zambia: 89% of women in Zambia’s four districts of Kasama, Kitwe, Mansa and Mazabuka had experienced GBV in their lifetime. Meanwhile, 86% of women in Lesotho, 68% of women in Zimbabwe, 67% of women in Botswana, 50% of women in the South Africa provinces studied and 24% of women in Mauritius have experienced GBV. A higher proportion of women reported experience of GBV compared to men admitting to perpetration of GBV in all six countries.

The most predominant form of GBV experienced by women in the six countries occurs within intimate partnerships. This ranges from 90% in the Zambian districts surveyed to 23% in Mauritius. Though not yet fully recognised as a crime, marital rape is pervasive and contributes to the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Other types of GBV that remain underreported include sexual harassment and human trafficking. GL also recognises how homophobia and transphobia fuels gender-violence directed at people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and calls for an end to violence against anybody and a full respect of all human rights.

Despite these shocking levels, governments’ negligible expenditure on prevention and their insufficient gender budgeting hinder implementation of related legislation as well as action plans to tackle GBV. There is an urgent need to establish GBV baselines in all SADC countries and strengthen integrated, costed planning frameworks for ending GBV. GL’s campaign across the region will help advance the review the GBV actions plans in at least three local government Centres of Excellence in all 10 countries and help to strengthen local government capacity to address GBV to promote the principle of zero tolerance to GBV in communities.

A commitment to 365 days of no gender violence is crucial if we are to ever totally eradicate GBV and achieve gender equality. The 2015 SADC Gender Protocol deadline to halve GBV is a matter of months away. Sadly the SADC region will not meet this target. However with an unwavering attitude of zero tolerance we can strengthen the targets and goals in the post-2015 agenda to ensure this mark is not missed again in 2030.

In the upcoming campaign, GL is also broadening the theme and placing special emphasis on economic empowerment as key to addressing GBV. Since last year GL has contributed to changing the lives of over 1000 women, with the roll out of the Entrepreneurship Training Programme for survivors of GBV from five different countries of Southern Africa. GL developed the programme because of the growing belief that to achieve gender equality, we have to improve women’s economic status. One of the biggest challenges in achieving gender equality is GBV, and economically disempowered women are less able to escape this abuse. The aim of the programme is to economically empower women, helping to increase their self-confidence, agency and independence.

Throughout the Sixteen Days campaign GL and partners will be hosting numerous events across the region, including workshops, trainings, protest marches and online cyber dialogues and Google hangout sessions on GBV. The Gender Links News Service will also be sending out a daily online newsletter sharing stories and from activists and survivors across the region, also detailing events, themes and various facts from the GBV Indicators research.

End Violence, empower women! 365 days- Yes we must!

For more information contact Katherine Robinson on +27 (0) 11 622 2877 / OR visit our website and Facebook page.+27 (0) 11 622 2877


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