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Let’s protect our women

Mar 12, 2013, 9:36 AM

Yet again, Sunday 8th March marked International Women’s Day; a day when women the world over, are remembered for their valuable contributions in nation-building, peace and stability.

The international theme for this year’s Women’s Day is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”, while The Gambia’s national theme is: “The Elimination and Prevention of all forms of Violence against Women and Girls”. This is no doubt fitting.

While women are most vulnerable to habitual and socially ingrained violence that mars lives, destroys health, perpetuates poverty and prevents us from achieving women’s equality and empowerment, we in The Gambia should be proud of seeing our women taking part in decision-making processes.

However, in spite of all that, there is still more that needs to be done. We want to see our women and children being more pro-active in all aspects of national development, and politics is no exception. We need economic and social policies that support women’s empowerment; we need programmes and budgets that promote non-violence.

In her statement to mark the day, the Vice President and Minister of Women’s Affairs, said the local theme is relevant and timely as many studies revealed that gender-based violence is real and a widespread phenomenon in many countries within and among all social groupings and geographical locations as well.

This is no doubt a reality which all and sundry must try to end.

It is evident that the impact on women and girls, their families, their communities and their societies in terms of shattered lives and livelihoods, is beyond calculation. Far too often, crimes go unpunished, and perpetrators walk free. No country, no culture, no woman, young or old, is immune.

It is very important that as we continue on our road to national development, we ensure that as much as possible we keep our women highly protected against all forms of violence.

Reports indicate that women and girls are systematically and deliberately subject to rape and sexual violence in war. This no doubt stands in direct contradiction to the tenets of the United Nations Charter to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom that we must all try to abide by, because the consequences go beyond the visible and immediate.

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated in his message in 2009, changing mindsets and the habits of generations is not easy. It must involve all of us - individuals, organizations and governments. We must work together to state loud and clear, at the highest level, that violence against women will not be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance.

To be sure, it is only by doing so that our women and girls could be protected and made to feel that they are also part of the society, and that without them life would be meaningless.

‘The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world’

Charles Malik