In Here’s How We Combat GBV: Part 1, I shared my top 5 ideas for how we can tackle and progressively eliminate gender-based violence. But a problem as persistent and extensive as this one requires an equally persistent and extensive response. There are many more than 5 things we can – and must – do.
Involve Private Sector
We need to ensure that stringent employee protection and wellness practices are adopted throughout the private sector – particularly those promoting healthy relationships amongst colleagues and condemning any kind of harassment in the workplace. Companies needs to adopt new ethical principles on the way they advertise and commercialize their brands, especially when girls and women are their primary audience.
Media plays a huge role in creating and entrenching stereotypes, as well as in influencing lifestyles and shaping decisions. If women had a say in the kinds of advertisements shown to themselves, their spouses and their children, I believe we would have achieved sociocultural cohesion and equality to a far greater degree by now.
Increase Interaction & Information Dissemination
There needs to be an increase in information dissemination to women and men, equally. This could be achieved through annual summits aimed at bringing voices together to re-evaluate policies, programs and initiatives. Having an annual summit strictly for women and girls, another for men and boys, and another where these two groups come together to appreciate, recognize and learn from each other, could help to bridge existing gaps and bring all genders on board in tackling gender-based violence.
Improve Interventions at Universities
It must be a mandatory prerequisite for any prospective student at any educational institution to complete surveys on their understanding of gender-based violence before they’re able to enrol. New students should be required to sign a pledge committing to reporting violence taking place on campus and protecting victims. Students who report and address gender violence could be incentivized through programs that contribute towards their living expenses or tuition fees, and students should be consulted on what would work best for them.
In the USA, more than 1 in 5 young women will experience sexual assault or misconduct before they graduate, and that’s a reported statistic in a developed nation. Without exaggeration, we should quadruple that figure to try to estimate the staggering rates of sexual violence on campuses in developing nations.
End Harmful & Traditional Practices
Harmful and traditional practices, such as early and forced child marriage, need to be eradicated as a step towards eradicating gender-based violence more widely. The violence is often not only sexual in such circumstances, but also psychological and emotional. Men need to be given the responsibility to educate themselves and their peers on ending child marriage and speaking up about the rights of girls and young women. Malawi and Uganda have made great strides in ending child marriage in Africa, however, more needs to be done to create impact and change at community level.
Make Public Spaces Safer Spaces
In an effort to make public spaces safer, there needs to be an approach that can be adopted by key stakeholders throughout public, private and civil society sectors – aimed at raising awareness on safety measures in places most frequented by young people. Other measures such as installing street lights in dark public alleys and open spaces, and installing surveillance equipment around night clubs and ‘crime spots’, could potentially lead to more cases being reported (as there would be evidence), and girls and women could feel safer, irrespective of where they are and at what time they are there at.
Invest in Urban & Rural Development
There is a need for governments to have help desks and survivor and victim rehabilitation centers offering comprehensive services – from counselling to support and care – in every district, both rural and urban. This would enable women and girls to access information about their health, in a place where confidentiality, friendliness, comfort and ease are guaranteed. Ensuring that there are adolescent health clinics providing youth-friendly health care facilities for the public is also essential. All women should be able to find easily accessible and affordable health facilities, and there should never be a need for women in rural areas to have to struggle to reach services in urban areas.
Invest in Data, Technology and Innovation
There is also a need for improved reporting mechanisms and infrastructure to assist in capturing information related to gender based violence and a great deal of resources need to go into data collection and sourcing. Living in a digitalized millennium, technology plays a pivotal role in influencing people across the globe and messages reach millions of people in different geographic locations in seconds. Innovation and technology needs to be used more effectively not only in reporting violence, but as a powerful tool that women and girls can use to protect themselves from potential threats and unforeseen violent situations.
Prioritize Women’s Economic Emancipation
Women need to be empowered economically to ensure their independence. Many women make a decision (not a choice) to stay in unhealthy relationships where they experience violence and abuse from their partners, due to not having the means to sustain themselves if they were to leave the relationship. More opportunities that will contribute to women’s economic emancipation, empowerment and employment are needed if we are to reduce the prevalence of abusive relationships.
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.