Sep 8, 2010, 1:39 PM
Actionaid the Gambia recently concluded a three-day message development workshop on issues affecting women.
Among the topics covered was Gender-Based Violence (GBV), which was the preamble put together by the group responsible for GBV.
GBV is a growing global concern that has serious socio-economic and health consequences that can drain our national development efforts and therefore cannot be ignored.
However, the challenge we are faced with in addressing it is that GBV is associated with our socio-cultural beliefs and values, which encourages it.
For instance the “Desk Review on GBV” conducted by the Network against Gender-Based Violence in 2010 has indicated that women and girls are increasingly bearing the brunt of violence, with men being the main perpetrators.
It also revealed that violence against women and children are as a result of the way boys and men are socialized as they are often taught to repress their emotions, with anger as the only ‘legitimate’ outlet.
On the other hand, women often ‘accept’ domestic violence because most of them (women) are also socialized to believe that it is justifiable for men to beat their wives and that it is rewarding in the hereafter for them to bear such pain in their matrimonial home.
Thus, it created the culture of silence and stigma surrounding violence against women and girls which result in unwillingness by families to report cases to the police or serve as witnesses in courts.
The Desk Review also indicated that in spite of the many legislations and policies on women’s rights, their empowerment and GBV, communities are still ignorant of these laws and policies, and therefore, neither understand nor practise them.
Therefore, in our drive to bring about greater respect for the rights of women and girls, and zero-tolerance for gender-based violence, we need to foster our collaboration and partnership with communities to develop and disseminate effective and community friendly information, education and communication messages that depict our laws and policies against GBV to legally suppress the cultural attitudes and practices that engender GBV while encouraging those that promote the rights and welfare of women and children in our communities.
From this preamble it is evident that GBV is seen as a private family matter when it should be in the interest of the public for addressing.
Whether we know it or not wife battering is still common in our families, communities and the society.
Should we keep on seeing it as a private family matter and watch our sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters and nieces die in our own hands?.
Do we ask ourselves: who are the perpetrators? They are our fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, uncles and nephews. These are people we love so much and are ready to die for, yet they batter us to death.
The workshop also showcased that GBV is not only about wife-battering but other practices that hurt a woman emotionally like denying a woman to work.
Well work does not mean official jobs; even trading, buying and selling is work.
Rape is also another of Gender-Based Violence because it happens without the consent of the other person (women and girls).
It traumatizes their whole life and the victims’ lives with it for the rest of their lives.
The worst thing is, marrying them to their rapists and the victim will continue living with her perpetrator for the rest of her life and the torture and violence will continue.
Therefore, marrying girls to their rapists will do more harm than good to the society because it nurtures continuous violence.
Engaging women and girls into sexual acts with a promise of getting them employed or promoting them is gender-based violence.
Women should be equally employed in our various workplaces without any sexual favours in return. If a woman who is a CEO in a particular company does not give jobs to men in exchange for sexual favours then why can’t a woman get a job the same way?
Sexual abuse of children in our homes, schools and communities is gender-based violence.
It can only be tackled when we break the culture of silence and report cases of gender-based violence to the relevant authorities for the necessary actions to be taken.
The communities should see GBV as a private family matter that should be discussed and buried in the family setup.
GBV is a matter of public interest, it is against the law of the country and by keeping it a private family matter, we are only grooming perpetrators in our midst, which is dangerous for us.
The communities should provide support for victims of gender-based violence so that they will be able to get back on their feet and speak out against the perpetrators; expose them to the law so they can be hidden forever.
We should know that by exposing the perpetrators, be they your husband, brother, cousin, nephew, father and uncle, you are protecting our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and nieces from abuse, torture and violence.
Be the change that you want to see in your communities, society and nation; let’s fight against Gender-Based Violence.
Bear in mind that its end result is death.