Violence against women is an affront to human dignity
Idah Chilufya is a cross-border trader in the Great Lakes region. She is a fifty-year-old widow with four children. To raise an income selling her two boxes of tomatoes, she has faced daily threats of intimidation, robbery and sexual assault.
Violence against women has to stop. As I’ve stated before: violence against women is violence against all of us. It’s an affront to human dignity. And it’s happening in our neighbourhood. Recent data show that the rates of sexual violence against women in Africa exceed 45%, 10% higher than the global average. It’s a hard-hitting reality with a catalogue of abuses ranging from rape used as a weapon in conflict, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, to attacks on schoolgirls.
So it is our issue. And we have to take action. The African Development Bank invests in human capital. Violence against women and girls destroys half of the biggest asset Africa has – its people. Our Ten Year Strategy to transform the continent can only be measured through changes in the lives of each African woman and girl. They need to take active part in our growth, realising their high potential free from violence. They need to be supported through shocks, where they are affected the most. With Ebola, it’s making sure women get back on track quickly for themselves and their communities. And that way play their part in Africa’s wider open for business story.
The Bank’s projects, working with our partners, are making an impact. In Idah’s case, alongside another 1,000 cross-border women traders, she is now part of the formal economy. As a member of a traders’ association that looks after her welfare, she is growing her business thanks to our training and support. That’s why our Gender Strategy focuses on economic empowerment, knowledge and capacity building and legal status and property rights to deliver for women’s prospects across Africa.
Here the Bank’s Special Envoy on Gender is leading our committed call to action and at the same time tracking our delivery, making sure we are held to account. Together with our Regional Member Countries, business and civil society partners we are campaigning to end violence against women across the continent and across our communities. In solidarity with this year’s UNiTE to end violence against women campaign to ‘orange the world in 16 days’, our offices and online platform will go orange during this time to mark the colour of new horizons.
In the words of Graça Machel, “women constitute knowledge, expertise, talent and powerful energy. It is imperative they take centre-stage in influencing the decisions and processes that are re-shaping the global economic and financial systems.” The African Development Bank is championing women and girls’ empowerment, so that together with the continent’s men and boys, they share in equal participation, peace and prosperity. That is our joint responsibility. Today and for Africa’s tomorrow.