Ending violence against women: 16 Days activism begins
I grew up in a home where men dominated. My father went out to work and brought money for housekeeping; thus, he was the sole decision-maker in the house.
My mother’s role was to keep the house, cook and care for the children. Any attempt at putting forward her suggestions to inform decisions affecting the family was seen by my father as disrespectful. She endured verbal and sometimes physical abuse for so long.
I carried the mentality that a man is the boss and decision-maker into my own marriage. My wife was industrious and earned more money than I did. Anytime she raised a concern, I thought she was trying to lord herself over me because she earned more than I did.
Eventually, I insisted she should stop work because I believed that it was when she was unemployed that she would be obedient to me. I witnessed our son refusing to do household chores because his sister had the responsibility for such tasks. He believed that boys did not do household chores. So the cycle continues.
Types of VAWG
Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) happens in different forms: physical, psychological, economic and sexual, and occurs at different places—in our educational institutions, workplaces, communities, government institutions and in the home. Women and girls, irrespective of their status, experience one or multiple forms of violence.
As we commemorate this year’s 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women from November 25 to December 10, what part are you playing as an individual or a group in the activism to end this canker?
Everybody must be able to tell the efforts he or she is putting in to end violence against women and girls. It is not a call for action for only Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working around issues of gender-based violence. Far from it!
The theme for this year is, “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.”
Human rights are not foreign concepts; as such, we should not hide behind cultural norms to discriminate against women and girls. Traditions and norms which violate the rights of women and girls, no matter how entrenched they are in our societies, should be discarded so that we can all live in dignity.
We should also continue to advocate the release of funds by the Ministry of Finance into the Domestic Violence Victims Fund to take care of the medical, legal and other bills of survivors of domestic violence.
During these 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-based Violence, we should all get involved in this fight; both state and non-state institutions, civil society organisations, community-based organisations and individuals, whether or not you work in the area of violence against women and girls.
In our schools, workplaces, communities and especially in our homes, we must use this period of activism to sensitise the citizenry to the Domestic Violence Act. We must UNITE in the fight to end violence against women and girls.
If we all make the conscious effort to end violence against women and girls wherever we find ourselves, we will make the world a better place.
There must be a universal, national inclusiveness and teamwork to end violence against women and girls.
What has been done so far? The United Nations has formulated a lot of principles to protect women and girls in international conventions and declarations which most countries are signatories to. The declaration on the elimination of violence against women spells out what violence against women comprises and the need for all of us to familiarise ourselves with its content.
At the African Union level, there are some protocols that protect the rights of women and girls aimed at ending violence against them.
What have we done as a country to end violence against women and girls? We have the Domestic Violence Act and Criminal and Other Offences Act, among others that have sanctions for perpetrators and available services for survivors of domestic violence.
Even though the Domestic Violence Act has made provision to assist survivors of violence, the reality is that the resources available are woefully inadequate. There is the need to address violence against women and girls holistically through behaviour change and effective implementation of laws.
Women and girls are not a homogeneous group. We have women and girls with disability as well and our interventions must take account of their peculiarities because women and girls with disability face multiple forms of violence, right from their caregivers, friends and family members among others.
There is an increasing trend of sexual violence against girls and our interventions should also include ways to reverse this trend.
With the emergence of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), cyber violence is increasingly becoming a problem, particularly among the youth.
Age-appropriate information regarding sexual violence should be made available in schools and communities and reporting of such incidence to the appropriate institutions should be encouraged.
How are organisations working around issues of domestic violence collaborating to provide effective interventions for victims?
To address this problem, we need both state and non-state actors to work collaboratively and efficiently to protect women and girls.
End violence against women and girls. Protection, prevention and service delivery are vital in dealing with violence against women and girls. Everyone must be involved in ending violence against women and girls.
The writer is a Programme Manager at the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Ghana