MenEngage Africa observes 16 Days of Activism

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that begins on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10th, Human Rights Day. This is an opportunity for us all to reaffirm our commitment to ending gender-based violence and hold one another accountable.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a grave human rights violation as well as a severe health and safety concern. Women and girls mostly likely to be subjected to sexual or physical violence during their lifetime. Despite constitutions and legislative safeguards enacted by African governments, gender and sexual orientation-based violence persists at alarming rates.

According to the UNFPA, the East and Southern Africa region has high rates of sexual violence against women and girls. In seven countries, around 20 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 years reported they had experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner. Sexual violence against early adolescents aged 15 years and below is highest in the conflict and post-conflict countries of the DRC, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Given Africa's scourge of gender-based violence, it is critical that civil society organisations, government institutions, and private entities work together to Orange the world: End violence against women now. In a continent where women's and girls' rights are constantly violated, it is crucial that we demand justice and engage our leaders in implementing laws that protect women and prohibit practices that oppress women and girls.

For years, men have reaped the benefits of patriarchy and its senseless foundation. It is therefore vital to engage men and boys to end gender-based violence (GBV). Female Genital Mutation (FGM) and child marriage are common practices on our continent. Despite the fact that these practices are illegal in other parts of Africa, they are still rampant in our society. 

Female genital mutilation (FGM) and cutting remains common in some East African countries. The prevalence of FGM is as high as 97.9% in Somalia and 93.1% in Djibouti. Even Eritrea, Sudan, and Ethiopia report very high prevalence of FGM.

Many countries in East and Southern Africa have very high GBV rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, with preliminary reports from some countries indicating that the incidence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the data, more than 40% of women in Burundi, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe reported violence by an intimate partner prior to the pandemic, while nearly 30% of respondents in Uganda, Zambia, Burundi, and Kenya reported violence by current or previous partners in the previous 12 months. 

In South Africa we have high levels of GBVF. The recent crime statistics released by the minister of police indicate that sexual related violence including rape, GBVF are very high. This horrifying report is released just on the eve of the 16 Days of Activism indicating the massive challenge that still confronts our society. We have the National Strategic Plan on GBVF signed up by the President almost two years ago now. It has laid an important foundation for a comprehensive response to the challenge of GBVF. The implementation is a bit slow, but the foundations have been laid and we trust that the implementation will pick soon to turn the tide against GBVF. 

The UN Orange campaign is very important in keeping the focus on this matter globally. As Sonke and MenEngage Africa we support this initiative cognizant of its importance in mobilising all of us in society to be engaged in all efforts to turn the tide against GBVF. The call for 365 days of no violence against women and children is an important call that must be enhanced in all our interventions.

Date published: 
Thursday, 25 November, 2021

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