Violence against women and girls is a societal vice that cannot be addressed through legislation alone, but complemented by the persuasion of each person to understand the effects and consequences of any harmful practice that is directed towards women and girls. In Africa, the most prevalent forms of violence against women and girls include, among others intimate partner violence (IPV) , which manifests as physical, sexual psychological or economic violence by an intimate partner; Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is a common cultural practice in some parts of Africa; Early Child and Forced Marriage where girls below 18 years are forced into marriage; Sexual Violence in Conflict (SVC) and Humanitarian settings which includes rape, sexual assault with violent physical assault, kidnapping, sexual slavery and forced prostitution in conflict situations. Women and girls also face sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, in schools, digital platforms and in other public spaces.
Over the years, several institutional, policy and legally binding frameworks at the continental, regional and national levels have been developed to rally consensus across the continent on preventive mechanisms and recourse measures to sustainably address violence against women and girls. While there has been progress in addressing the scourge of violence, the vice continues in worryingly high levels. Addressing the underlying causes and triggers of violence remains a priority area for African women leaders keen to influence and push for more actions to curb the vice.
At the just concluded 3rd Women’s Leaders Consultations on Positive Masculinity, a forum preceding the Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity, women from across the continent convened in Moroni, Comoros for a two-day conference to explore innovative avenues to prevent and end violence against women and girls particularly through economic and financial empowerment of women. Several areas were explored on the challenges impeding the implementation of existing frameworks that advocate for women’s empowerment; the urgency for reliable, timely and accessible gender-aggregated data; addressing the lapses in monitoring, evaluation and accountability measures; addressing the deficit in human, technical and financial capacity, the need for synergy in the multisectoral and multilateral collaboration; and the role of leadership in influencing positive change of norms and attitude. The Outcome document of the meeting held on the 30-31 October 2023, will be considered at the upcoming 3rd Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity to be held on the 27-28 November 2023.
H.E. Azali Assoumani, President of the Union of Comoros affirmed the Comorian Government’s determination to give women their rightful place and its commitment to advance gender mainstreaming in the decision-making and development process. The President emphasized on the need to raise collective awareness on combating violence against women and girls. He made reassurances that Comorian matriarchal system protects women, particularly in terms of their movable and immovable property as a way of economic and financial empowerment. The President underscored the nexus between poverty and violence against women and girls and emphasized on the need for multisectoral collaboration in addressing women rights and empowerment.
H.E. Sahle Zewde-Worke, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia noted that women’s occupancy of important positions should also be accompanied by the power to decide and act, and put an end to their marginalization in decision-making, particularly in politics. Lauding the importance of positive masculinity where men are not threatened by the empowerment of women, the President stated that the concept of positive masculinity is a practical inclusive approach to complement existing strategies on the equality and empowerment of women, adding that the commitment by men must be institutionalized. The President recommended the sharing of best practices in Africa, and insisted on the fundamental importance of good education, particularly in preparing girls for their future.
Recognizing that violence against women, including economic violence, seriously violates and impairs the enjoyment by women and girls of their fundamental rights, in particular their security, freedom, dignity, physical and emotional integrity, H.E Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, noted that the 3rd Women Consultations offers a platform to co-create practical solutions to ensure policies taken at the macro-level are contextualized, domesticated, translated into action, mainstreamed in national plans and budgets, and regularly reported on.
H.E. Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary General observed that the empowerment of women was more than a social imperative or a matter of justice but smart economics. The nexus between violence against women and girls and economic development has shown that the scourge of violence costs countries huge amounts in resources measures such as health and legal costs and robs governments of favorable GDP following the low productive of women who are not capacitated to contribute optimally to the economic and social developments of their countries, regions, and continent.
H.E. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, former President of the Republic of Mauritius underscored the importance of timely, reliable, and accessible data on violence against women and girls and the impact of measures instituted to address the scourge of violence as a means to inform the evaluation of policies and actions to end the harmful practices. She similarly called for the coordination of efforts by the various stakeholders to integrate the challenges faced by women into policies and services.
Deputy Minister Ms. Nokuzola Tolashe emphasized the urgency for comprehensive social protection and service delivery to ease the burden of costs for education, health, transport, housing, electricity, among other necessities as well as income generation support through employment, micro and small business support, and informal sector support and livelihoods to ensure that women have economic agency. She underlined the critical role of the public and private sectors to give women owned enterprises supply chain opportunities, thereby increasing their sustainability, and expanding financial services, products, and financial education to ensure women are able to access credit, save or invest income, and secure assets safely and sustainably.
Mr. Mohamed Bajraﬁl, Ambassador of the Comoros to UNESCO while revisiting the statistics on violence against women and girls and persistent discrimination in many social and economic activities made emphasis on the importance of redefining positive masculinity and fostering mutual understanding between men and women to preserve women’s rights. He called on men to take part in rectifying gender inequalities by embracing their responsibility.
Dr. Joannie Bewa, Chairperson of the Youth caucus of the African Women Leaders Network, called for accountability at the international, continental, and national levels on measures instituted to prevent and end the scourge of violence against women and girls. She also emphasized on the enhanced resources mobilization and investment in the fight against violence against women and girls.
During the two-day event, women from across the continent shared the best practices on how economic empowerment of women had contributed to addressing the various facets of violence against women and girls. These efforts contribute to the realization of the goals of Africa’s development framework, Agenda 2063, and the Decade of African Women Economic and Financial Inclusion 2020-2030.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union (AU).