Gender Gender

Let’s end child marriages, GBV

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Children's Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
TWENTY-YEAR-OLD Maureen (not her real name) and a mother of two has lived through most forms of gender-based violence (GBV). Coming from one of the shanty townships in Lusaka; at the age of 15, she was forced into a marriage hoping to escape her poverty-stricken family, who were unable to send her to school.

Maureen hoped that marriage would improve her quality of life, but she was wrong. It was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. While pregnant with her first son, she experienced domestic violence; she could not leave the marriage. When she tried to complain to her family about the abuse, she was told that traditionally, their hands were tied and they could not interfere. As a married woman, she was no longer their responsibility.

According to Maureen, because of her unhappy marriage, she did not want another child hoping her situation would improve, but her husband wanted more children, and before long, she had a second baby. It was at this point that Maureen realised that she did not have any rights, including sexual reproductive rights; she was at her husband’s mercy.
According to the United Nations Women, one in three women and girls will have experienced a form of violence in their lifetime. It does not matter who or where they come from, and the common factor is that they are female. Violence can be emotional, psychological, sexual and verbal.
No society is immune to the vice because it happens in the home, school, street, workplace, internet and anywhere else, and sadly, violence against women and girls has become the norm and often goes unpunished. Victims often feel like the violence they experience is their fault and are often too ashamed to speak out.
To protect people like Maureen, in 1991, the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute initiated the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence from November 25 to December 10, an international campaign to create awareness and sensitisation on violence against women and girls. Currently, more than 3,700 organisations from approximately 164 countries participate in the campaign annually.
The days during which the campaign is commemorated were deliberately picked to coincide with November 25, which is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, while December 10 is Human Rights Day. The UNiTE Campaign, which is identified with the orange colour for visibility, calls on everyone to get involved through sensitisation and campaigns to end the scourge that undermines the confidence of victims.
This year’s theme: ‘Leave no one behind: End violence against women’ is befitting, given the various forms of violence that are recorded in most communities on almost a daily basis. Cases of violence against women and children are not peculiar to Zambia but the world over. One only needs to pay attention to media reports to realise how serious the vice is and it happens at all levels of society.
Fortunately for Maureen, with the encouragement and support of a Good Samaritan at her local church, she has been empowered to start a little food business. From the little profit she makes, she is able to rent a one-roomed house and provide food and basic necessities for her children.
Maureen believes that it is possible to end violence by supporting and empowering survivors through various initiatives and to create awareness about the negative consequences of violence in whatever form. And with the laws and policies in place, victims can and should use them to have perpetrators punished. That is the only way violence against women and children, particularly girls, will be eliminated.
Maureen believes that walking out of the marriage was the best thing she ever did and she is now determined to give her children, especially her daughter, an opportunity to get an education. Maureen does not want her daughter to experience what she went through at the hands of a man due to lack of knowledge and support.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
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