Children, adolescents and women remain disproportionately affected by violence and abuse. Throughout the Global Goals and various other strategies, declarations and resolutions, the advancement of women is said to be a priority as an effort to address historically inherited systematic inequalities.
However, it seems to me that there are still great challenges in effectively implementing the instruments aimed at addressing women’s rights and gender equality, and achieving broader transformative goals.
Here are 5 things I believe must be done to tackle and progressively eliminate gender-based violence against women, girls and children:
- Political Representation, Decision-Making and Implementation
Firstly, we must increase, strengthen and advance women’s political representation, as well as their involvement, engagement and participation in decision-making on women’s issues. The more women there are to make decisions on behalf of women, children and families, the more likely it is that needs will be adequately addressed. The likelihood of implementation (with steadfast accountability) also increases. Secondly, there needs to be better coordination and mobilization of resources to ensure that implementation of grassroots programs and activities takes place and targets and results are achieved.
- Give Women a Voice and Choice on Women’s Bodies
Who knows the needs of women? Women do, of course. It is pivotal to increase female representation in policy and legislative environments. Girls and women need to be given seats at all tables, spaces on all platforms and opportunities through all channels to air their views and better shape the choices and decisions about their bodies and lifestyles.
What if every nation had a Women’s Party – dedicated not only to advocating for issues affecting women and holding government and stakeholders accountable, but also to represent the views and voices of women from all backgrounds, origins, social and economic classes. Would that make a difference? I believe that it would. Women should make up the majority, not men, when it comes to addressing women’s health issues. Last time men spoke on behalf of women, we were rewarded with patriarchy, which will take years, if not decades to dismantle. The only way to its dissolution is to put women first and at the centre of development.
- Prioritize and Invest in Family Planning and Women’s Health
Family planning saves lives and access to safe and voluntary family planning is a human right. The International Conference on Populations and Development (ICPD) recognizes “the right of men and women to be informed to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice”. When society fails to recognize this right, it should constitute a grave violation of human rights and be treated as a form of abuse. Once women are granted the opportunity to raise their voices to address the concerns, barriers and challenges they face in accessing information, healthcare facilities and services, they are better able to make their own unique choices to improve their lives so they enjoy a higher quality of life.
- Invest More in Education, Information and Advocacy
Everyone needs access to information and education on the issues that affect them. When an individual is educated, they have the ability to make informed decisions for themselves, but also to inform others around them. I think we need campaigns not only on specific days of the year such as International Day of the Girl Child or International Women’s Day or even 16 Days of Activism on Gender Violence. These campaigns need to be year around, because women suffer every second of every day.
Increasing visibility of campaigns targeted at socially uplifting communities needs to be prioritized in urban and rural areas alike, including and not limited to having campaigns in places most frequently visited by young people, where they are at risk of victimization and abuse, such as pubs and night clubs, schools and neighborhoods with little resources and protection.
- Address Injustice in the Justice System
We need to strengthen our justice systems to better handle and respond to gender-based violence related crimes, victimization and decision making. There also needs to be an increased number of females working on gender-based violence and sexual violence cases to assist females and ensure their health and well-being is prioritized. On the other side of the law, I believe that there needs to be a serious re-evaluation of sentencing criteria. Perpetrators of sexual violence, or any form of gender-based violence, should be held accountable for any kind of torment to women’s bodies. There must be no more leniency for members of society who threaten the privacy, confidence and enjoyment of life of others. We need to speak up and stand up against injustice, in all its ways, shapes and forms.
Girls’ Globe is publishing opinions and ideas on tackling gender-based violence from our global network of bloggers and organizations during each of the 16 Days of Activism. We’re also crowdfunding to be able to continue to raise the voices of girls and young women in 2018 – voices like Zanele’s. Donate today and help us to continue building a safer, more equal world.