Keynote speech delivered at Hope for Her Global on 25th November 2021

KABAHENDA KIGGUNDU
Posted December 5, 2021 from Canada

 

Virtual keynote speech at the 16 Days of Activism against Women for Hope for Her Global 25 November 2021

INTRODUCTION

In this speech, I want to look at where we have been, where are now and where we are going with this silent epidemic of violence against women in the world, but more specifically in Africa.

WHERE HAVE WE BEEN?

Today marks the 30th anniversary of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) or the International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based violence.  

A lot has happened in the last 30 years. The number of women’s rights organizations working on this issue is huge. The 16 days campaign has been implemented in over 180 countries by more than 6,000 organizations.

One would think that after 30 years of campaigning and the many UN conventions that have been passed, including the 1993 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its monitoring Committee, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security 1325, and many other regional instruments aimed at ending-violence against women, one would hope that there would be a reduction in the levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG). However, as Maria Mbanga the CEO of Hope for Her Global would say, “we have marched, we have chanted, we have beat the drums” but levels violence against women and girls  all over the world remain alarming.

WHERE ARE WE AT NOW?

According to Every Woman organisation,

“More than one in three women worldwide experience sexual

assault or intimate partner violence, or 1.3 billion women.

As many as 38 percent of murders of women are committed

by a male intimate partner.

 

For indigenous women, rates of violence are reportedly as

high as one in two women.

79 percent of all detected trafficking victims are women

and children.

The total number of girls married in childhood stands at

14.2 million per year.”[1]

Yesterday, I was very lucky to be invited over zoom to the launch of the 16 Days at the UN, and this is what the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres had this to say:

Violence against women and girls continues to be the most pervasive and pressing human rights issue in the world today. It is both an abhorrent crime and a public health emergency with far-reaching consequences for millions of women and girls in every corner of the globe. The latest figures from UN Women confirm that during the Covid-19 pandemic, levels of violence against women and girls have increased…violence in any part of society affects us all. From the scars on the next generation to the weakening of the social fabric. We can draw a straight line between violence against between violence against women and civil oppression and violent conflict…” He added that with “comprehensive long-term strategies that tackle the root causes of violence, protect the rights of women and girls and promote strong and autonomous women’s rights movements,”[2] violence against women and girls can be prevented.

As far as Africa is concerned, rape remains a serious issue in many countries. For example, the situation of rape in Nigeria has reached critical proportions, and is detailed in an Amnesty report, “Nigeria: A Harrowing Journey. Access to Justice for women and Girls Survivors of Rape.”[3]

In 2020, 11,200 rape cases were reported, including children raped to death! The director of Amnesty International in Nigeria stated that, “concrete actions have not been taken to tackle the rape crisis in Nigeria with the seriousness that it deserves. Women and girls continue to be failed by a system that makes it increasingly difficult for survivors to get justice, while allowing perpetrators to get away with gross human rights violations.”[4]

Miss Senegal 2020, Fatima Ndeye is a young woman of 20. She got pregnant after she was raped, but the head of the organizing committee, herself a woman did not believe her story and had this to say, “If Miss Senegal 2020 was raped, it is because she looked for it, given that she is of legal age

After a lot of outrage in the media, she was forced to withdraw her statement and to apologize, but this shows that not all women stand with women on this issue.

“Sexism, harassment and violence against women is a problem in parliaments in Africa,”

A few days ago, the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) published a report of a joint study with African Parliamentary Union (APU), based on confidential interviews conducted with 137 women parliamentarians, and members of the East African Legislative Assembly). The study revealed that:

  • 80 per cent of women parliamentarians who participated in the study have experienced psychological violence over the course of their mandate:
  • 67 per cent have been subject to sexist behaviour or remarks.
  • 46 per cent have been the target of sexist attacks online (internet, social media, smartphones).
  • 42 per cent have received death threats, rape threats or threats of beating or abduction directed at them or their loved ones.
  • 39 per cent have experienced sexual violence.
  • 40 per cent have been sexually harassed.
  • 29 per cent have been exposed to economic violence.[5]

Femicide, or the killing of women and girls happens on a daily basis although we do not have statistics on this issue. However, I will mention two femicides that happened in the last two months in Africa, and that have attracted international attention:

Ms Agnes Tirop was a promising Kenyan 25 years-old long-distance runner who broke the women’s only 10km world record in September 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. She finished fourth in the 2020 Olympic 5,000m and she won the World Athletics Championships earning bronze medals. On the 13 October 2021 was found murdered in her home in Kenya. Her husband has now been charged with her murder,[6] but he had subjected her to physical and economic violence. Before killing her, he had transferred all her money and her properties into his names

On 20th November 2021, a young woman from Guinee, Conakry, M’mah Sylla died in a hospital in Tunisia after being raped several times by four young men who pretended to be doctors sometime in July. This is a case that has caused a public outcry in Guinee, but the sad thing is that it is not clear whether she will get justice! Apparently, judges do not take these cases seriously.[7]

IS THE HOPE FOR WOMEN?

Violence against women is preventable. We know this because there are so many initiatives at the grass-roots level, at the UN level aimed at ending violence against women and girls.

The battle against women and girls cannot be worn by women alone. It is very important to involve men and women, boys and girls and communities in this struggle.

It is heartening to know that today, there are a lot of men who are concerned about the silent pandemic that is killing their children, sisters, daughters, aunts and cousins.

Even some leaders, including the presidents of Nigeria, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are calling for an end to violence against women and girls in their countries.

What is needed are innovative ideas and initiatives aimed at prevention. Prevention education is critical Activists and women’s rights groups like ours need to do more awareness trainings in schools, for law-enforcement authorities, including the police and the judges, and parliamentarians.

An academic who attended our last meeting asked this question: how many primary and secondary schools, and universities in teach courses on gender-based violence? None was the answer.

Civil society organizations need to raise money so that they can provide social support services, including shelters, psychosocial support, and child care as well as legal aid. 

Here at Hope for Her Global, we have been engaging with men in “Candid Conversations” about violence against women.  We have talked to lay men and the clergy from Canada, Africa, Europe and Colombia, and there is a lot of interest in this initiative.

At the UN level, I heard yesterday of a European Union-UN initiative called “Spot Light Initiative” to eliminate violence against women and girls by 2030. Apparently, it has achieved some positive results during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the final analysis, a lot of progress has been made in the last 30 years since the launching of the campaign. Today, more and more women are speaking out about violence against women and girls, but a lot more needs to be done. The struggle continues.

Kabahenda Kiggundu, PhD

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Everywoman.org. Woman Treaty. “Safer Soon Report: Towards a Global Binding Norm to End Violence Against Women and Girls.” https://everywoman.org/safer-sooner/ [Accessed: 20 Nov. 2021]

[2] Antonio Guterres. United States Secretary General. Opening Remarks on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. 24 Nov. 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO_knnQzYjI&t=4192s

[3] Amnesty International Nigeria 2021. November 2021. “Nigeria: A Harrowing Journey. Access to Justice for                             Girls Survivors of Rape” (AFR44/4959/2021). https://www.amnesty.de/sites/default/files/2021-    11/Amnesty-Bericht-Nigeria-sexualisierte-Gewalt-Vergewaltigung-Frauen-Covid-19-November-2021.pdf               [Accessed: 23 Nov. 2021]

 

[4] Amnesty International. 17 November 2021. “Nigeria: Failure to tackle rape crisis emboldens perpetrators and silences survivors.” https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/11/nigeria-failure-to-tackle-rape-       crisis-emboldens-perpetrators-and-silences-survivors/ [Accessed: 24 Nov.2021]

 

[5] Inter Parliamentary Union. November 2021. Issue Paper. “Sexism, harassment and violence against women in                             in Africa.”

               https://www.ipu.org/resources/publications/issue-briefs/2021-11/sexism-harassment-and-violence-               against-women-in-parliaments-in-africa

 

[6] Washington Post. 16 November 2021. Cindy Boren. “Husband of slain olympic runner Agnes Tirop charged with        her murder.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/2021/11/16/agnes-tirop-husband-  charged-with-murder/

 

[7] Jeune Afrique. 24 nov.2021. Diawo Barry. “Guinée: émoi après le décès de M’mah Sylla, violée par de prétendus       médicins.” https://www.jeuneafrique.com/1269986/societe/guinee-emoi-apres-le-deces-de-mmah-sylla-       violee-par-de-pretendus-medecins/ [Accessed: 24 Nov.2021].

 

Comments 5

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Beth Lacey
Dec 07, 2021
Dec 07, 2021

Excellent remarks. Great to read

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 12, 2021
Dec 12, 2021

Dear Kabahenda,
Your speech is brilliant as always and was central to the energy of that day. It is filled with important information and statistics that we can continue to repeat as we continue to move forward. The information from the UN, the promises being made, are important for us to know, and it is so good that women like you are listening and reporting on what is being said. It is long overdue that UN representatives live up to the Declaration of Women's Rights, signed in 1948 and still not in place. Thank you for all you do. I am so glad that we are only a few hours apart, and get to meet sometimes, I hope again soon
In Sisterhood,
Tam

KABAHENDA KIGGUNDU
Dec 20, 2021
Dec 20, 2021

Thanks Tam and Beth for your comments. Greatly appreciated.

Grace Iliya
Dec 21, 2021
Dec 21, 2021

Great script,I enjoyed reading it. Glad that more women are speaking out.

Jefiter Mang
Jan 11
Jan 11

Bravo!
I agree that many women are not are yet standing with other women on this issue.
This calls for more effort from as many of us as possible.
We will change that narrative as we do our part.
I , for one will go a step further in path.
Thank you for painting for us the true picture of how things still stand on violence against women and girls.