The past 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls have been a whirlwind of activities and achievements. It is worthwhile to reflect on all the events, the conversations that have been started, and the goals we have set.
Starting November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ending today, Human Rights Day, the world over has celebrated the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence international campaign. It is important to note that gender-based violence is also a human rights issue. As we mark Human Rights Day, we need to reflect on concrete strategies to involve all key stakeholders to eliminate all forms of violence.
Along with more than 130 countries around the world, Uganda participated in the 16 Days of Activism and used this as an opportunity to take a public stand to say that violence against women is wrong. The Ugandan government showed strong leadership by choosing a theme that reflects the particular challenges of Uganda. The national theme for Uganda is “Act Now: Stop Teenage Pregnancy, Forced and Child Marriage.”
I have thought about all the events that my office, UN Women Uganda, have been involved in. Looking back, it is clear that many Ugandans want things to change. There is a growing number of people who think it is good for girls to stay in school and delay motherhood and marriage by a few years. There are men and women who say that a culture of violence against women and girls is not okay.
This year, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development decided to hold the national launch of the 16 Days of Activism in Gulu. This is an important step to show that countrywide, we need to be thinking about the challenges of teen pregnancy and early and forced child marriage. In fact, many of our rural citizens struggle with poverty, a factor that leads parents to pressure young girls into marrying too young.
At the Gulu launch, speakers discussed how early marriage impedes progress of girls in various spheres of life. It increases the risk of HIVAids, decreases a girl’s chances of finishing secondary school, and decreases her prospects of supporting herself and her family in the future, and how it even decreases the health of mother and child.
There were goals set by district leadership to pass gender-based violence ordinances in the sub-counties. Local government recognised that ensuring women’s safety is fundamental for peace and for implementing the State’s obligations under the Goma Declaration.
It was encouraging to see the community take an optimistic approach to tackling an issue as heavy as violence against women and girls. The 16 Days of Activism have shown that across the country, people are calling for an end to the silence that surrounds this widespread problem of violence against women.
My key takeaway from this year’s 16 Days of Activism is that I was really impressed with the way Ugandans interacted with this global movement and made it relevant to their context. Time and again I heard how early marriage increases the girl’s chances of being a victim of violence in the marriage, how it limits her education and, therefore, her ability to be a successful income earner it increases her risks of HIVAids and there are significant physical and psychological health risks when girls and teenagers become mothers.
I have seen Ugandans from all walks of life: police, school children, government, cultural leaders, civil society, and the health sector, say that violence is not the answer and it is not okay in homes. I request all Ugandans to support the message of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon: “Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable and never tolerable.”
Ms Hodan Addou is the UN Women Country Representative
SOURCE: Daily Monitor