“Violence against women and girls harms the development of Africa”: AfDB concludes 16 days of activism

17/12/2015
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The Office of the Special Envoy on Gender of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) concluded its campaign to mark 16 days of activism in solidarity with the UN’s UNiTE “Orange the World: End all Violence against Women and Girls”. From November 25 to December 10, the AfDB ran a sensitization campaign at its headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and across its 35 field offices in Africa. The Bank’s campaign, “Women at the Forefront of Development: The Fight against Violence”, featured high-level panel discussions and a variety of activities aimed at engaging with local partners and raising awareness around the AfDB projects fighting gender-based violence.

The campaign kicked off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, with a high-level panel discussion on “Education and Awareness”, where participants addressed the alarming issue of violence against girls in schools. In her opening remarks, the AfDB Special Envoy on Gender, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, emphasized the need to address the harmful practices against women and girls: “We cannot talk about ending violence against women and girls if we do not talk about fighting against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriages,” she said.

The panel cited the need to break the silence on violence in schools, where girls continued to be sexually assaulted, especially by their teachers. Jeanne Kopieu, the Sub-Director of Education for All within the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training in Côte d’Ivoire, shared findings of a recent study undertaken by the Ministry, showing that 5,000 girls were impregnated per year.

In Liberia, the Resident Representative of the AfDB field office, Margaret Kilo, inaugurated a national radio broadcasting program dedicated to young women’s empowerment “Women: Let’s Talk”. The program was born after a group of international observers based in Liberia noticed that younger Liberian women are not as successful as their older counterparts, who have demonstrated great achievements in almost all the sectors of the society. The event was hosted by Liberian Vice-President, Joseph Nyumah Boakai, on Tuesday, November 24, in partnership with UN Women.

In Kenya, Gabriel Negatu, Regional Director of the AfDB East Africa Regional Resource Center, hosted a panel discussion on the growing concern around “Cyber-based violence against women” on December 9. In recent years, Kenya has witnessed a growing number of cases of gender-based attacks through social media, some of which have resulted in the deaths of the victims. Participants in the discussion included the UK’s Department for International Development, the Bloggers Association of Kenya and the National Police Service. The speakers signalled the importance of addressing emerging forms of violence in Africa.

AfDB field offices in Sudan, Mozambique, Nigeria and Burkina Faso also conducted activities. In Burkina Faso, AfDB Resident Representative Antoinette Batumubwira hosted a fund-raising session to support the Delwende Center, a shelter which is home to around 250 women victims of gender-based violence. Most of those women were expelled from their village after being harassed and falsely accused of practicing “witchcraft” by the community, as a ploy to seize their assets and land.

On Wednesday, December 2, Fraser-Moleketi invited stakeholders in the security forces sector in Côte d’Ivoire to discuss the important issues of “Gender-based violence and conflict: The role of men.” Participants included General Akissi Koume, Responsible for Health Services in the Ivorian army; Lieutenant Berthe, member of the Ivorian national committee on gender-based violence and conflicts; and 53 students from the National School of Gendarmerie. During the session, Sibry Tapsoba, Director of the Bank’s Transition and Support Department, explained the importance of the Bank’s involvement in post-conflict peace and security processes such as Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs. “The mandate of the AfDB is to promote and support the development of its Regional Member Countries and this can’t happen without peace,” he said.

On Wednesday, December 9, the President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina, hosted an event in commemoration of the International Anti-Corruption Day. The President noted that it would cost $55 billion a year to light up and power Africa, and that this money was available given the continent’s $82 trillion in undiscovered resources. Because of corruption, the continent still lives in darkness, said Adesina, who pointed out that tens of millions of Africans still study without proper light, 700 million Africans are without access to clean cooking energy, and 600,000 people – 50 percent of them women – die every year due to a lack of access to clean cooking energy. “That is an indication of government failure,” he stated.

On Thursday, December 10, 2015, the AfDB closed its awareness campaign and the Bank President stated: “The African Development Bank has commemorated once again the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. During 16 days, the Bank has heard about this important plague which provokes the suffering of millions of women and girls in the world, and on our continent, and also handicaps the development and well-being of countries and communities.”