gender-based violence

{Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman}Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman

There was an awkward silence and then soft giggling as the girls looked at each other. I had just finished talking about strategies for persuading sexual partners to use a condom. Laughter during these skills-building and girls empowerment sessions with 30+ secondary school students in Morogoro, Tanzania was not uncommon, particularly given the sometimes sensitive topics of discussion, but this time, the joke was lost on me.

I asked the student nearest to me, a confident teenager that I knew wouldn’t be too shy to respond, why everyone was laughing. She told me, “You speak about this as if we have a choice.” She wasn’t being sarcastic or combative, nor was she complaining - she was simply matter-of-fact about it, stating her truth.

 {Photo: Adama Sanogo/ Management Sciences for Health}An SGBV survivor arriving for medical and psychosocial care.Photo: Adama Sanogo/ Management Sciences for Health

(Crossposted from the FCI Program of MSH "Rights and Realities" blog).

Communities in the Mopti region of central Mali—which is home to several ethnic groups and to many people displaced by 2012 violence in the country’s northern region—continue to grapple with widespread sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including forced and early marriage and other harmful practices. A majority of Malian girls are married by the time they reach 18, and 15% before the age of 15.  About 91% of women between 15 and 49 years old, as well as 69% of girls under 15, have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). And, as is true in so many conflict-affected areas, widespread sexual violence has been a tragic and infuriating effect of war, dislocation, and migration.

{Photo Credit: Adama Sanogo/MSH}Photo Credit: Adama Sanogo/MSH
As we commemorate the international campaign"16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence,"  MSH reflects on our experiences working to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.

“We remember the hard times the women and girls of Douentza have experienced,” said Animata Bassama, a representative of the women of Douentza, referring to the fighting and ensuing gender-based violence (GBV) that plagued Mali in 2012.

Animata spoke to a crowd of 100 government officials, NGO representatives, health and finance officials, women’s advocates, and community members. A new center for GBV survivors, fortified by concrete and adorned in yellow and pink, was her backdrop. 

“And to the entire population of Douentza, we must unite in peace and understanding to effectively manage this center together,” she continued. 

In May 2016, the FCI Program of MSH, with funding from UN Women, opened a center next to the Douentza Referral Health Center to provide a safe space for GBV survivors to seek medical and psychosocial care, as well as temporary shelter.

{Photo credit: Andrew Esiebo/MSH Nigeria}Photo credit: Andrew Esiebo/MSH Nigeria

I am a woman. I am a Nigerian. I am a mother. I am a leader. And, I am a daughter. As the Nigerian country representative, I guide Management Sciences for Health (MSH)’s efforts to ensure the people of my country have access to quality health services. Indeed, I am many things. Before all else:

I am a woman of Nigeria.

The Girl Child in Nigeria

From the beginning, our girl children are at a disadvantage.

Our culture (like many are) is strongly patriarchal. The boy child is given higher status than the girl child. If a family has to choose, the boy child is the first to go to school. The girl child is the first to be dropped from school.

No matter how young she is, the girl child feels that it is her responsibility to care for her siblings. She is expected to take on added responsibilities and earn money to keep the other children. This pressure frequently leads to early sexual activity, transactional sex, and sex with older men-- increasing her risk of getting HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections.

Then Boko Haram came to the North East Zone of Nigeria. They take our girls away. They abuse them. They rape them. They marry them off to older men.

2012 World AIDS Day event in Port au Prince, Haiti. From left to right: Pamela White, Ambassador of the United States to Haiti; Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS; Sophia Martelly, First Lady of Haiti; Florence Duperval Guillaume, Minister of Public Health and Population; and Guirlaine Raymond, Director General of the Ministry of Public Health and Population. {Photo credit: C.Gilmartin/MSH.}Photo credit: C.Gilmartin/MSH.

In recent years, Haiti has endured some of the greatest misfortunes in its history, including hurricanes, floods, the devastating 2010 earthquake, and the cholera epidemic that followed. These natural disasters and public health crises have added to the harm already caused by the country’s widespread poverty, social and political unrest, and under-resourced health system. Haiti’s fragile population is further plagued by the highest HIV prevalence in the Western Hemisphere at 1.9 percent, which translates to roughly 120,000 HIV-positive individuals and 93,000 children who have lost their parents to AIDS (UNAIDS, 2011).

Say No to Violence Against Women: http://saynotoviolence.org/Say No to Violence Against Women: http://saynotoviolence.org/

saynotoviolence.org

Human rights, solidarity, awareness, strength, and resilience. These are some of the words that come to mind when I think about the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign (16 Days campaign).

Globally, one out of three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates of gender violence reaching 70% in some countries. Behind the numbers are the faces of women and girls whose lives are interrupted, their potential undermined, and their future compromised because of violence.

Started 21 years ago through the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University, the 16 Days campaign spans from November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, through today, December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Making of Banner for International Day of Persons with Disabilities {Photo Twitpic @UNICCanberra.}Photo Twitpic @UNICCanberra.

On December 3, 2012, the international community commemorated International Day of Persons with Disabilities. About 15 per cent of the global population --- more than one billion people ---  live with some form of disability.

About half are women living with disabilities, many of whom suffer disability-specific gender-based violence.

Karla came from a troubled home where there was domestic violence, drug use, and general turbulence. She was repeatedly sexually abused by a relative in her home.

In 2008, Karla participated in the In School Youth (ISY) HIV prevention program at her secondary school in Region 4, Guyana.

Agape Network Incorporated, a USAID-funded, faith-based organization, leads the ISY program. Agape receives technical assistance from USAID's Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Program, Phase II (GHARP II), led by Management Sciences for Health with Howard Delafield International and AIDS Healthcare Foundation,

Dr. Sima Samar speaking on 'How to advance women's rights in developing countries.' {Photo from World Bank webcast, March 5, 2012.}Photo from World Bank webcast, March 5, 2012.

On Monday, March 5, 2012, everyone from policymakers to students gathered at the World Bank for a Special Event on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Women’s Rights.

CEDAW is a treaty that has been ratified worldwide by all but six countries --- the United States, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and two small Pacific Island nations (Palau and Tonga).

The event was hosted by Caroline Anstey, Managing Director of the World Bank, in conjunction with the Nordic Trust Fund, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and the United Nations Foundation.

Leafing through Malawi’s Nation newspaper, the headline, 'wild men in society escalating rape cases' jumps off the page. I pause and stare at the accompanying photo and caption.

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