16 days of activism against gender-based violence – what does it take? African Development Bank’s efforts to end gender-based violence – November 25 – December 10

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  • A statement by Dr Beth Dunford Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development

The African Development Bank is marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign this year, from November 25 to December 10. Now is the time to reflect on how gender-based violence affects our society and what we can do to end it.

Gender-based violence is a human rights violation that hinders the well-being and growth of countries. This year, the Bank is celebrating 16 days of activism under the theme: “What is needed? The African Development Bank’s efforts to end gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence can take the form of physical, sexual, psychological or economic, or harmful practices such as child marriage, differential access to food and services, female genital mutilation, or an unacceptable justification for crimes such as honor killings.

Gender-based violence is rooted in unequal power relations between women and men which is manifested in the gender inequalities we see today around the world. UN Women statistics tell us that nearly one in three women aged 15 and over has experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner, a non-partner – or both – At least once in her life. Women and men, girls and boys experience gender-based violence, which makes it a social problem and not just a “women’s problem”.

Our research on the Bank’s gender strategy shows that in Africa, 20% of women aged 15 to 49 are subjected to physical or sexual violence. As the Bank strives to implement our High 5s, we face gender-based violence – and we observe that these incidents are often underreported due to stigma, fear, unavailability of mechanisms reporting and support, low awareness, the threat of retaliation and the normalization of GBV as a way of life. With the development bringing technologies such as mobile and online services to improve economic opportunities for Africans, there is a threat of digital gender-based violence: the use of information and communication technologies such as ‘Internet, social media, computer games, text messaging and email to inflict violence, abuse and harassment in digital contexts.

The Covid-19 pandemic is making the situation worse. There has been an increase in reported cases of gender-based violence, largely due to loss of livelihood and restrictions on movement that have kept many survivors at home for long periods with their perpetrators. Research by UN Women has found that globally, the number of reported cases of violence against women has increased by more than 25% in countries with reporting systems. Pandemic lockdowns have also ended programs to end and respond to gender-based violence. However, the Bank provided support for national Covid-19 programs which integrated livelihood support and gender-based violence programs as “essential services” during a pandemic.

The African Development Bank has zero tolerance for gender-based violence. Led by the Gender and Women’s Empowerment Division of the Agriculture, Human and Social Development Complex, the Bank will carry out a series of activities that will guide us to think about what more can be done to end gender-based violence in operations. These include several webinars to mark the campaign period and the dissemination of good practices to end gender-based violence.

We know that we can prevent gender-based violence through our individual and collective actions and better support survivors in our projects and in partnership with other agencies. During these 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, we invite you to actively participate in the planned discussions and to make a personal commitment to end gender-based violence in our homes, communities and society.

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