Participants and ending gender-based violence (GBV) activists/champions/stakeholders from Bangladesh, Belgium , Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, South America, Sudan, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe met on 14 January 2021 via zoom, in a symposium convened and organized by Afrihealth Optonet Association [CSOs Network] within the Gender-Based Violence symposium series of the ‘Civil Society for Elimination of Gender-Based Violence (CS4EGBV)’ Project; and for which more than five hundred (500) activists/enthusiasts from all over the world registered.
Afrihealth Optonet Association is a civil society network and think-tank of about 600 (Six Hundred) organizations across Africa, the Caribbean and global South for Systems Strengthening in Health; Energy, Climate Change and Environment; Nutrition and Food Security; and Gender, Good Governance, Democracy, Human Security, Rights and Dignity; Human Capital Development; promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). AFRIHEALTH is committed to the propagation of ‘Health’ as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being through Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and health systems strengthening, especially in the areas of the SDGs, diseases prevention, provision of care and impact mitigations using partnerships, advocacy, research/evidence-generation, capacity development, outreaches, and monitoring and evaluation as strategies; focusing on rural and poor urban communities, vulnerable and disadvantaged populations; and exploring the interlinkages between Health, Energy and Environment, Nutrition and Food Security, and Gender, Good Governance, Democracy and Human Rights.
The symposium received an opening statement from Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje (Nigeria) – Chief Executive Officer, Afrihealth Optonet Association who served as the symposium moderator; listened to Professor Hayat Gomma (Egypt) – full Professor at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria who was the lead speaker; and received panel contributions from Ms Thina Maphosa (Zimbabwe) – Programmes Manager, YES Trust, Zimbabwe; Ms Sophie Shima (Belgium/Burundi) – Co-fondatrice & Directrice, Pont de la Solidarite’ asbi and Coordinator of Advocacy/Fundraising/Partnerships; Restore Dignity, Uganda; Alhaji Abdul Rashidi Imoro (Ghana) – Program Manager, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Right, Savana Signatures, Ghana; and Mr. Azubuike Michael Nwachukwu (Nigeria) – Founder, Grow Cassava, Palm Tree and Farm Produce for Cash (GCPPC), Nigeria.
The participants acknowledged that:
Gender Based Violence is any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will because of the person’s gender, which includes physical, sexual, mental harm through threats, actions, coercion and other deprivation of freedom inflicted in public or private – the forms of which include child marriage, female genital mutilation/female genital cutting, honour killings, human trafficking for sex or slavery, intimate partner violence, physical punishment, and sexual, emotional or psychological violence, rape and other types of exploitation; one in every three women have experienced gender-based violence in their lifetime; one in five women and girls under the age of 15 have suffered physical or sexual violence by spouse within the past 12 months according to data collected from 87 countries; GBV/VAWG is a persisting but unacceptable infringement on the human rights and dignity of all its victims, and so deserve the attention, condemnation and resource-support of the world’s leaders at all levels, especially since most victims are unable to fight for themselves; according to the World Health Organization (WHO), GBV has put an enormous burden on health care services for women and has proved to be more costly, as the cases in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), physical injuries, miscarriages, severe psychological conditions and even death, increase daily; 30% of married/partnered women have experienced Intimate Partner Violence;
7% of women have experienced non-partner sexual violence;
each year, about 12 million girls are married before they are 18 years old; and that the COVID-19 pandemic escalated GVB/VAWG to a level that about 31 million cases of GBV occurred during an average lockdown of 6 months.
The participants observesed concerns that:
lack of adequate systematic data collection and analysis of gender-based and domestic violence continued in 2020 – the year of COVID-19 pandemic, during which domestic and gender-based violence increased while avenues for redress and services for victims shrunk; Serious gaps continued in the several official responses to widespread domestic violence, including lack of sufficient protection and recourse for survivors, skewed laws on domestic violence that do not provide comprehensive definition of domestic violence, do not make inclusive provisions that also address violence against men and boys, and fail to address several issues crucial to ensuring effective protection for survivors; some of the contributory factors include patriarchal system in many societies which makes intimate partner violence cases not to be reported nor their urgency seen and if reported, families are made to favour out-of-court settlements that still left victims not receiving fair hearing/justice while perpetrators are not punished according to laws to serve as deterrent; poor/inadequate resourcing/funding of state/formal agencies/institution saddled with the responsibility of bringing legal justice in cases of GBV, while resources are not usually unavailable to some organizations and youth led initiatives to bring awareness on GBV issues; and lack of economic empowerment of victims makes many GBV cases go unreported as victims often still have to rely on the perpetrators for basic needs from the perpetrator.
The participants observed that: Several advocates, politicians and experts advocating for a robust domestic violence and gender-based violence laws often reported threats against them and their families, including by those claiming to promote “traditional” or “family” values; but are not generally provided with personal security by the state, thus making them very vulnerable to attacks; Men and boys are critical change agents in GBV prevention efforts and are needed to be involved in the fight of elimination against Gender Based Violence.
It is imperative to engage youths together with other established leaders in the effort to end GBV/VAWG, while economic empowerment remains a very crucial and leading factor in the elimination of GBV/VAWG; that culture, religion and legal limitations tend to make the elimination of gender-based violence more resistant to be implemented in certain environments; most laws on GBV/VAWG tend to favor women and girls, thus preventing several men and boys from reporting cases of GBV/VAWG being perpetrated against them, thus suffering in silence; there is gross inadequacy of safe houses for victims of GBV, social support from community and religious entities for victims, affordable or free mental health programs and counseling for victims, perpetrators or families; and dearth of programmes/opportunities for disseminating GBV/VAWG information to several population in different languages, including braille and sign language; and poor/inadequate enforcement of existing laws and treaties against GBV in several countries.
The participants therefore call on and recommend to the United Nations, all countries, governments, diaspora communities, humanitarian organizations, development partners, foundations, philanthropists, donors and endGBV/VAWG stakeholders world over, to: declare as ‘war crime’, any gender-based violence and violence against women and girls orchestrated during wars and inter-communal conflicts, thus making it punishable under current international laws on war crimes; institute free and compulsory health services for all victims of GBV/VAWG in all health facilities, while using health insurance to pay for those who shall be treated by private health facilities, especially for refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), migrants, homeless people, persons with disability, older persons and young people/adolescents; increasingly promote measures/initiatives to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal no. 5 (SDG5) – Achieve Gender Equality and Empower Women and Girls, as being cross-cutting to all the other SDGs, in all sectors, at all levels, for every society/community; support the involvement of men and boys as critical agents/champions for the elimination of GBV/VAWG in their respective societies/environments and beyond; support the signing of the ‘Every Woman Treaty’ as a necessary ‘next step’ in ending VAWG globally; ensure that in order to end Gender Based Violence by 2030, there is need for ‘clean entertainment’ to ensure that contents allowed in home videos, cartoons, music, films, games and so forth, do not depict promotion or acceptance of GBV/VAWG for any reasons; include GBV/VAWG in school curricula at the early stages of children’s education in schools, as part of the global efforts to promote and observe human rights and dignity for all persons; support programmes/interventions for anger management, emotional intelligence sessions, while the media and entertainment industry must create more contents that are both inspirational, promote character building and eschew GBV/VAWG;
support and prevail on the courts to provide lie detector test machines to verify reported GBV/VAWG cases, so as to avoid punishing an innocent person, letting perpetrators go free for “want of proof or evidence” and always ensure that true justice based on truth is dispensed to all with neither fear nor favour, affection nor ill-will; promote increased access to GBV/VAWG information by the youth, since ‘information/knowledge is power’ and informed young women and men are bound to make better decisions that assist them to effectively engage in life processes, escape GBV/VAWG and determine their destiny;
support continuous multi-sectorial approaches to urgently stop the GBV/VAWG pandemic, including provision of safe spaces where victims can report abuses without alerting perpetrators in/among rural, remote, hard-to-reach, poor urban and resource-constrained settings/populations across the whole world; consider programme flexibility to include GBV interventions with current funds and going forward, provide additional resources/funds to respond to the issues of GBV/VAWG monster; and commit to building back better after the within and after the COVID-19 pandemic, which gender dynamics cannot be overlooked, by providing, supporting and committing to interventions that assist women to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, which has already increased the burden of care and risk of GBV/VAWG for women, girls and young people;
urgently address issues of climate change and biodiversity challenges such as water and energy shortages, long distances to water and fuel/energy sources, increased burden of carrying water along long distances which also increases the risk and vulnerability of women and girls to GBV, as well as takes away their productive time and school as long hours are spent in ques or travelling to fetch water and fuel/energy for family and commercial uses; address the provision of menstrual pads and other sanitary wear for women and girls as a basic needs/necessity to be provided free at all time, as many women especially in their youth/adolescence are compelled to sell their bodies, engage into early sexual activities, remain in abusive relationships, and or refuse to report these perpetrators of GBV/VAWG in order to continue to receive moneys to provide these menstrual pads and other sanitary wears; while countries and organizations are instituting programmes/frameworks meant to offer free contraceptives to girls as young as 12 years who at the same time cannot afford menstrual pads and other sanitary wear; and
upport global networks and support groups for victims of GBV/VAWG through the mass media, enhanced communication and collaboration between all community sectors to end GBV/VAWG.
The participants commit themselves and their organizations to:
strengthening local initiatives and structures (rather than creating parallel initiatives) by creating genuine partnerships/collaborations that are transparent, engage more in capacity development and training to improve local competence and skills in leadership, advocacy, research, evidence generation, outreaches, communication, social mobilization, coordination, networking, awareness raising, implementation of interventions, and monitoring and evaluation of programs and initiatives in the fight against elimination of GBV; promoting the works of the civil society to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence in all countries and communities by the year 2030 through increase programmes/interventions to eliminate GBV/VAWG in/among rural, remote, hard-to-reach, poor urban and resource-constrained settings/populations across the whole world;
ending the inglorious culture of silence around GBV/VAWG, especially on the victims; and fully support and adopt the ‘Whole Hand Framework’ for the elimination of GBV/VAWG through Legal Reform (minimum standards save lives), Training and accountability for professionals (police, judges, medical), Services (shelters, medical treatment, livelihoods support), Prevention Education (males & females, adults, teens & children), and Money/Funding (10X increase to $1 per female on earth, or 4 Billion per year).
In conclusion, participants expressed their appreciation to Afrihealth Optonet Association [CSOs Network]/’Civil Society for Elimination of Gender-Based Violence (CS4EGBV)’ Project, for organizing the symposium while expressing the need for the network to organize several more of such events for various segments/actors in the endGBV/VAWG efforts to be carried along.
Participants were thankful to all the speakers/panelists, to Ms Faith Mvududu (Zimbabwe) who was the symposium’s lead rapporteur and Mr. Emmanuel Daudu of African Security Investigation which was the symposium’s lead media partner
Contact: Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje.
CS4EGBV Project/Afrihealth Optonet Association [CSOs Network]
Phone: +234 803 472 5905
Signed by the following representatives:
Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje. Civil Society for Elimination of Gender-Based Violence (CS4EGBV) Project/Afrihealth Optonet Association [CSOs Network]; Nigeria
Ms Thina Maphosa. YES Trust; Zimbabwe
Eunice Yinka Odedele. Gender Equality and The Girl Child Development Foundation (GEGCDF), Ondo State, Nigeria
Omobolanle Shakirat Ajijola. Bina Al-Amal Foundation, Nigeria
Dr. Kabir Hamisu Kura. Community Development Initiative (CDI), Nigeria
Martin Moyo, Eden Centre, Zimbabwe
Zainab Umar. Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON), Kaduna, Nigeria
Alhaja Ogungbenro A.O. Airat Ogungbenro Children Protection (ACP) Initiative, Ibadan, Nigeria