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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Let us sustain war on gender violence

25th September 2012
Editorial Cartoon

How serious is gender-based violence? The simple and genuine answer is that only women know and many are yet to tell their story of anguish in a compelling way.

The tendency has largely been to remember it when we are about to mark the annual campaign to remind the world how serious the problem is. Some listen, some don’t.

Calling it the annual campaign is far from dismissing it as having had no impact on the lives of our majority population. Rather it is to recognise the challenges that are yet to be overcome in the fight against the scourge.

Globally, an estimated one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

From beatings to sexual violence, from intimate partner violence to human trafficking -- the forms of gender-based violence are varied, but their scope and their impact are devastating to the victims.

Indeed when women and girls are denied the chance to fully contribute to society because of the violence or fear they face, our entire world suffers.

At home the report is that one in every two women in the country is a victim of abuse, according to Jane Salomo WLAC Coordinator of the ‘We can end all gender violence’ campaigns.

What is worse is that most of this violence goes unreported, according to the coordinator, who cites female genital mutilation as one of the issues which women regard as an ordinary phenomenon which does not need to be reported to any security organ.

These outdated cultural and traditional norms are thus also behind the slow progress in the fight against gender violence and complicate the problem.

Gender violence in the country is also under reported due to stigma and lack of a strong system to enforce the law. Many women, especially in the rural areas are not aware of the law protecting them and care organisations or even emergency help they can turn to in such painful times.

That is why it is important to ask whether enough is being done by all of us to put an end to this unacceptable behaviour.

For how long should the nation allow this untenable violence against women go unpunished?

It is thus a relief, albeit a limited one, to learn that the Women Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) a non-governmental organisation, is helping the majority of women living in villages to access information and proper avenues to pursue their rights.

According to coordinator Salomo, the centre has a network of lawyers who receive the distress calls and act on them, without necessarily having the client physically visit the centre.

It is one of the innovative, sustainable efforts to fight gender violence and we are happy to learn that clients are responding positively to the system.

We need more of such initiatives, undertaken on a sustainable basis and reaching the remotest parts of the country, where such violence is common occurrence and will mostly go unpunished.

It is time the nation vowed that it shall not rest as long as one woman is being intimidated just because she is a woman. Lest we forget, such a campaign is at the very core of our fight for democracy.

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