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Gender inequality the root cause of GBV, says First Lady Zineb

Mar 10, 2015, 9:37 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

First Lady Zineb Yahya Jammeh has said gender inequality is the root cause of gender-based violence.

This was said in a statement delivered by her on 8 March marking International Women’s Day 2015.

Zineb Yahya Jammeh said there is an urgent need to address gender inequality, which is the root cause of gender-based violence bearing in mind that GBV is a cause and consequence of HIV, likewise HIV is a cause and consequence of GBV.

“In 2015, we are reminded of the fact that 20 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for gender equality; 15 years of Millennium Development Goals; 10 years after the entering into force of the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; over 30 years in the HIV epidemic; and 5 years into the AU African Women’s Decade 2010-2020; epidemic levels of violence against women and girls, the most stark, blatant, brutal, unambiguous and disempowering manifestation of gender inequality has not been eradicated, but rather institutionalised and profoundly entrenched across Africa,” she said.

Zineb Yahya Jammeh said the available evidence reveals that children and adolescents in The Gambia are extremely vulnerable to various child-protection risks, including risk of abuse, neglect and violence.

Many of the protection-related issues that Gambian children face (e.g. harmful forms of child labour, infant abandonment, early/force marriage, sexual abuse, female Genital Mutilation) are heavily under-studied, and available evidence is “predominantly anecdotal in nature”, she continued.

Many work in agriculture, street hawking and domestic service, which could have detrimental effects on their physical well-being and possible education, and parents tend to justify such actions by blaming it on their economic and financial circumstances, and deem it necessary to find means of generating income for the family by using their children.

Poverty, therefore, appears to be an important, although not the sole reason for which some rights violations to occur, she said.

Harmful traditional norms and practices, loss of family environment, dysfunctional families, lack of life skills to protect themselves, and lack of voice and agency are notable contributing factors, she added.

The Gambian first lady further stated that children’s lack of voice in the family and community is very prevalent, and deeply embedded in the Gambian culture.

She also said there is a general notion that “children are to be seen and not heard”, particularly in the company of adults.

“This often underlines their vulnerability to protection violations, particularly with regard to sexual abuse including commercial sexual exploitation, physical violence and early marriage,” she went on.

Over 67 million women (20-24 year old) in 2012 had been married as girls, one-fifth in Africa, according to her, and in the next decade 14.2 million girls under 18 years would be married every year; that is 39,000 girls married each day.

According to Zineb Yahya Jammeh, 15 out of 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa, and 39 per cent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before their 18th birthday and 13 per cent are married by their 15th birthday.

She said Gambian girls are highly vulnerable to early and forced marriage, which is a long-standing tradition in the country.

“I would like to remind that there is no ‘THEM and US’. Let’s work together to meaningfully contribute to gender equality. The empowerment of women and girls and the realization of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls through our life cycle,” she said.

“They, therefore, need to urge their governments to recognize the necessity and the fact that women and girls are important for brightening the future of the nation and are important for global prosperity.”

The first lady believes that with the support of all women from across the country, Gambian women could indeed make it happen, in not only the agricultural sector but for all areas of sustainable development.

“Let’s continue to speak out; let’s continue to seek togetherness; and let’s continue to fight against all forms of abuse, marginalization and discrimination, as we are able partners in every household, in every society and in every country,” she said.