Southern Africa: Women’s education and economic empowerment key to end GBV

Date: November 28, 2013
  • SHARE:

Rose Hill, 29 November: We cannot address gender-based violence (GBV) in isolation from other social ills such as poverty and poor education. If women have inadequate access to a quality education, they are less likely to be financially independent making them far more vulnerable to different forms of violence. If we are to win the fight against GBV we need improve women’s education and economic status.

According to the Violence Against Women (VAW) baseline studies conducted in Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, The most predominant form of GBV experienced by women and perpetrated by men occurs within intimate partner relationships.

The lifetime prevalence reported by women was 90% in four Zambian districts, 69% in Zimbabwe, 62% in Lesotho, 60% in Botswana, 49% in four South African provinces and 23% in Mauritius. In all six countries, the most common form of intimate partner violence (IPV) is emotional violence. Due to women’s economic dependency on their husbands and partners, they often have no choice but to stay in these relationships and endure the abuse.

Gender Links has developed an Entrepreneurship Training Programme, which facilitators are rolling out in 100 councils in ten Southern African countries. The programme teaches survivors of GBV a combination of applied life and entrepreneurial skills as well as basic business and IT knowledge. The aim is to empower women, helping to increase their agency and independence.

However if there are inadequacies in the quality of and access to basic education, entrepreneurship programmes and implementing economic empowerment initiatives will remain ineffectual.

Out of the 64 survivors who attended the entrepreneurship training in Mauritius, 46% were illiterate while the other 54% did not even have functional literacy. The women who could read and write had problems with the IT training and struggled just writing down their business plan, and even just one paragraph about themselves. Trainers conducted the workshop orally and used pictures to help participants grasp different concepts.

The literacy level of women in Mauritius is 88% and there is a higher proportion of women than men in tertiary level education. However, due to language barriers in the education system, many children remain disadvantaged unable to learn basic concepts in their home languages. This has a direct effect on functional literacy.

Across the region, girl’s lack of access to education remains a major hurdle to women’s economic empowerment and gender equality. Numerous factors hinder girls’ enrolment, retention and performance at different levels of education in Southern Africa: basic services, cultural practices like child marriage, teenage pregnancies and HIV and AIDS. Child abuse, GBV and sexual harassment in schools and tertiary institutions perpetrated by both teachers and peers also continue to affect girls’ education in SADC.

According to the 2013 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer, besides Lesotho and Seychelles, women in Southern Africa still have lower literacy levels than men. Less than half of the 15 SADC countries have achieved gender parity at all educational levels. So far, Botswana, Malawi, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have achieved 50% or more girls in primary education.

Secondary education is not compulsory in any SADC country, and free education at secondary level is uncommon, thus dropout rates remain high despite many countries reaching parity. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) girls make up only 36% of secondary school learners; 44% in Tanzania, Mozambique and Angola, with 45% in Malawi.

Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia are the only six countries in the region with higher percentages of women at tertiary level than men. The DRC, with 26% women has the lowest proportion of women in tertiary education.

These factors are root causes that continue to contribute to women’s inequality, economic dependency and vulnerability to domestic violence. Education is key to women’s economic independence and agency. We cannot attempt to address GBV without simultaneously addressing women’s access to basic human rights. If we want to halve the prevalence rate of GBV, we need a 365-day commitment to girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment.

Anushka Virahsawmy is the Gender Links Country Manager- Mauritius. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service’s 16 days of Activism campaign, providing fresh views on everyday news.


Comment on Southern Africa: Women’s education and economic empowerment key to end GBV

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *