16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence - November 25 - December 10, 2018

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international UNiTE advocacy campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign provides a space to galvanize action to end gender based violence around the world.  It runs every year from 25 November, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, the Human Rights Day.  The 16 Days campaign symbolically and explicitly links violence against women with human rights to emphasize the latter as a violation of human rights.    Since its launch in 1991, the campaign has achieved unpreceded mobilization against gender-based violence, at national, regional and global levels.   To date, approximately 3,700 organizations from 164 countries participate in the annual campaign. The theme for 2018 is; Orange the World: #HearMeToo! This theme amplifies the voices and agencies of survivors and activists which intensified through campaigns including the #MeToo movement.  These campaigns have provided an outlet for women survivors of sexual violence to speak up and seek recourse.  Thus far, women and girls’ voices have reached a crescendo that can no longer be silenced.   The 16 Days campaign acknowledges that while the names and contexts may differ across the world, women and girls continue to experiencing abuse with impunity and their stories must be heard. 

This year’s campaign coincides with the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Thus it raises consciousness and deepens the global commitment to women and girls’ rights as human rights where their dignity, fundamental freedoms and self-determination must be respected, protected and enshrined in the legal systems to end impunity. As the world gets ready to mark this 70th anniversary, sadly violence against women and girls continues to be a global challenge with unimaginable negative impact on the lives of survivors.  In the African continent, the economic costs of violence remain as high as 15% of the Gross Domestic Product[1].   Up to 70 per cent of women and girls continue to experience physical and or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. Millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, or even murdered, which constitutes appalling violations of their human rights.

Worthy of note, is that African member states have taken bold steps through acceding to international and regional instruments to ending discrimination against women, advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Through these commitments, measures have been taken to address gender based violence through programs, policy, legislation and constitutional reforms to enact progressive.  To date, out of the 53 African countries where data is available, 27 or 51% have domestic violence legislation.  This is notable progress compared to 1995 when less than ten African countries had any legislation to address domestic violence.   Countries having domestic violence legislation by sub-region varies from

9 out of the 11 countries (82%), in Southern Africa; 7 out of 13 countries (54%) in Eastern Africa; 8 out of 15 countries (53%), in West Africa to 2 out of 7 countries (29%) and 1 of 7 (14%) in West Africa and North Africa respectively.

Strides have also been registered on the Protocol to the African Charter on Women’s Rights (Maputo Protocol) ratified by 40 countries; and signed by 12 others.  As of July 2018 only3 countries had not yet taken any action.    However, despite this progress, more still needs to be done as the prevalence of violence against women and girls is still high in Africa, especially intimate partner violence which is estimated at 65.6 % in Central Africa, 41, 8% in West Africa 38.8 % in East Africa; 29.7% in Southern Africa and 35.4% in North Africa and the Middle East combined.[2]

The 16 Days of Activism Campaign provides a momentum and a resolve for initiatives such as The UN SG’s Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment to take root and make the UN a safe environment for women to work with assurance that their rights and dignities are protected and respected and their voices heard.   Throughout the 16 Days let us give a hearing to the voices of those who report gender based violence as behind every figure, there are untold stories of intimidation, discrimination and violations of human rights.  I am therefore calling upon each one of you to join the campaign with energy, compassion and resolve to bring an end to gender based violence in Africa and bring back the lost voices of women and girls who have been silenced for far too long.   Let us remember that protecting and advancing the rights of women and girls and achieving gender equality are preconditions for achieving prosperity, transformation and sustainable development on the continent

[1] ECA African Women’s Report 2014

[2] Garcia-Moreno, Claudia, C. Pallitto, K. Devries, H Stockl, C. Watts, and N. Abrahams (2013), “Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Violence”, World Health Organization, Geneva