WOMEN are the face of development. When they are educated, healthy and participate effectively in key development activities, there is an undeniable ripple effect on the well-being of communities and nations at large.
guest column: Karen W Maturure
Yet, gender-based violence takes away their ability to fully utilise necessary basic human rights and consequently diminishes the potential of communities and countries to progress socially, economically and even in terms of political development.
In Zimbabwe, about one in three women aged 15 to 49 has experienced physical violence, and about one in four women has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
Each year from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to December 10; Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute co-ordinated by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991 at Rutgers University.
The campaign aims to raise an awareness of the negative impact that violence and abuse have on women and children, and to rid society of abuse permanently.
Abuse constitutes any behaviour that causes fear, bodily harm and causing a person to do things against their will.
Forms of abuse include child and rape, emotional and physical abuses as well as sexual harassment.
Up to 70% of women experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their life.
Every year, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign either introduces a new theme, or continues an old one.
The theme focuses on a particular area of gender inequality and works to bring attention to these issues in order to make effective changes.
This year’s global advocacy theme was Orange the World: #HearMeToo, with a focus on ending GBV in the workplace.
Under the theme Orange the World: #HearMeToo, organisations were hosting events with local, national, regional and global women’s movements, survivor advocates and women human rights defenders and creating opportunities for dialogue between activists, policy-makers and the public.
As in previous years, the colour orange is a key theme unifying all activities, with buildings and landmarks lit and decorated in orange to bring global attention to the initiative.
Key dates to observe during 16 Days of Activism include: November 25: International Day of No Violence against Women, November 29: International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1: World Aids Day, December 3: International Day for the Disabled and December 10: International Human Rights Day.
The campaign this year ended on Monday, but better late than never for those wishing to participate.
In case you were wondering how you could do this, here are a few things to be done.
Firstly, don’t be a victim of gender-based violence and abuse yourself.
Report any violence perpetrated against you, your friends, neighbours and family to the police or organisations such as Zimbabwe Women Lawyers for assistance.
Do not look away when you see someone being abused, but speak out.
You could also find out what activities are being carried out by civil society or government agencies, and find out how you may be a part of these initiatives.
Altogether this is a huge global campaign, but its success rests on our daily individual and collective actions to safeguard society against this cycle of abuse.
You are your sister’s keeper. The time to speak out is
Karen Maturure writes in her personal capacity