The Africa UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women and Girls aims to create a favorable and supportive environment for governments, in partnership with civil society experts, to be able to fulfill existing policy commitments.
The regional component of the United Nations Secretary Global UNiTE campaign - Africa UNiTE, was launched on 30 January 2010 by the UN Secretary General and the African Union Commission Chairman, in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. The campaign builds on the African Union’s (AU) policy commitments on ending violence against women and girls, as in the spirit of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa and the AU Protocol on Women’s Rights in Africa. The overall objective of the campaign is to address all forms of violence against women and girls in Africa through prevention, adequate response, policy development, implementation, and ending impunity.
With the ultimate goal of reducing the prevalence of violence against women and girls, the Africa UNiTE campaign aims to create a favorable and supportive environment for governments, in partnership with civil society experts, to be able to fulfill existing policy commitments. Its objectives, as outlined in the Africa UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women and Girls Framework and Work plan, are as follows:
• To raise awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and responding to all forms of violence against women and girls in Africa
• To create a favorable and supportive environment for governments, in partnership with civil society, experts, entities of the United Nations systems and other stakeholders to fulfill existing policy commitments
WHY THE CAMPAIGN?
One of the major achievements of the 20th century has been the development of a rich body of international, regional and national laws affirming the equal rights of all human beings. This is more so in the field of women’s rights as the problems associated with violence against women have gained increasing recognition. Many international, regional and national legal instruments dealing with human rights include the protection of women from violence. However, in spite of the many legal structures that presently exist to address Sexual and Gender Based Violence in general, African communities are yet to stamp out or significantly reduce cases of violence against women. The victims of this vice in Africa, like in most other societies in the world are mostly women. Its ugly face spans from physical abuse and sexual violence, to subtle violations such as verbal abuse and deprivation of their entitlements within the family. The above sentiments are mirrored in the article by Marren Akatsa, also published in this special issue of Pambazuka News.
The causes of these abuses are well known and documented. They range from: the low status society accords to women, to poor policy and legal frameworks that condone or ignore the prevalence and perpetuation of violence against women and girls coupled with inadequate state action to mobilize different stakeholders, to commit adequate resources to prevent, investigate, punish perpetrators of violence against women or to provide redress for women survivors which has contributed to impunity.
The implications of the impunity with which society and governments treat gender-based violence dehumanizes women, whose concerns are trivialized by the very society in which they play significant social and economic roles for the better of these societies.
SOAWR’S PARTICIPATION IN THE CAMPAIGN
Since its inauguration in 2004 the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition’s main areas of focus has been lobbying African states to sign, ratify, domesticate, and implement the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Protocol).
The Protocol prohibits all forms of exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment. It further obligates state parties to enact and enforce laws to prohibit all forms of violence against women, identify its causes and consequences and take measures to prevent and eliminate such violence against women and punish perpetrators and provide rehabilitation of victims of violence.
The Protocol has since been ratified by 31 out of the 54 AU member states and several of the states that have ratified the Protocol have taken significant steps to domesticate the instrument by introducing laws to locally substantiate it. However, there remains a large gap between the scope of the laws and their actual implementation. Furthermore, many of the progressive laws remain far from a reality for the majority of African women, particularly women residing in rural areas and urban slums. The article by Osai Ojigho sheds light on this by indicating that without sufficient enforcement mechanisms, even the passage of legislation does not guarantee positive changes in the lives of women.
SOAWR takes cognizes that the above complex issues require a holistic approach. From 2009 SOAWR has taken up a lead role to guide the process of overcoming the challenges and has held a number of consultative meetings with stakeholders from member states to the Protocol to encourage effective domestication and implementation of the Protocol. Another initiative has been the development of a guide to using the Protocol for legal action at both national and regional level. Additionally, trainings for lawyers and civil society on using the guide have been conducted. Lastly, SOAWR and the UN Women in collaboration with the African Union Commission have rolled out trainings for government officials and Civil Society Organizations to facilitate countries adoption of a multi-sectoral approach to realizing women’s rights using the Protocol.
The re-launch of the Africa UNiTE Campaign to End violence Against Women and Girls has come at a significant time as the African continent engages in delivering on women’s rights realization during the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020). The women’s decade carries great potential to increase gender equality and SOAWR hence joins hands with the Africa UNiTE campaign to urge all the African States on the need to commit to the three pillars of:
1. PREVENT – Violence against women and girls
2. PROVIDE – Services to survivors of violence
3. PROMOTE – Justice and end impunity
EVENTS AT KILIMANJARO
SOAWR, who is a member of the Africa UNiTE Regional Steering Committee, will be joining the rest of Africa in the launch of the campaign and has organized a series of side events. The side events are a reflection of some of the work that SOAWR members undertake and will hopefully contribute in the campaign to end violence against women and girls.
On the 5 and 8 March 2012 the Tanzanian Network against Female Genital Mutilation (NAFGEM) in collaboration with Equality Now will organize a youth walk towards Mount Kilimanjaro where the Africa UNiTE campaign will be re-launched. The walk will seek to highlight concerns of the continuation of cultural practices that are harmful to women, most significantly, the practice of female genital mutilation. While the practice is forbidden by law in Tanzania- an important first step- it continues unabated in many rural communities. NAFGEM will also exhibit and showcase how it has come up with many innovative strategies for working with communities to eliminate this practice and other harmful cultural practices. The objective of this activity will be to urge the government of Tanzania to find ways to support these efforts through enforcement of the laws.
On 6 and 7 March, the Legal & Human Rights Centre Tanzania (LHRC) will provide legal aid services to members of the public in Arusha. The Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW Kenya) will hold a public forum on the 7th to popularize the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women and the commitments by states to end violence against women and girls. Gender based survivors have been identified and will give testimonies during the public forum and send messages to the governments reflecting what women expect from their governments in ending violence against women and girls.
These two activities will seek to address concern on the widespread existence of violence against women and girls, particularly cases of domestic violence and sexual violence. Women and girls who are victims of violence often have few resources for redress or protection meaning that cases are underreported and perpetrators are seldom punished. Combating this deeply entrenched problem will take a combination of provision of legal service actions as reflected in the provision of free legal aid by the LHRC and awareness creation and public education campaigns using the public event organized by COVAW.
And as always, the burden of change lies with civil society, the media and citizens by holding governments accountable for the promises they made and the intentions they set through ratifying human rights instruments.
We call upon all of you to join us in the launch of the Africa UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls.
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