I have just been thinking lately while I continued in this spirit of activism against gender based violence, my mind has been struck by the fact that we have 365 days in a year and we only have 16 days to raise awareness on gender based violence. I realized that 16 days are somehow inadequate for such a cause. I know that my chauvinist and feminist colleagues may be wondering what I intend to establish by writing such ‘nonsense’.
Principally, if you look at issues of development as isolated from inclusivity, I dare say you need to recourse. On a backdrop of looking at women’s role in peace negotiations, peace building, diplomacy, decision-making, poverty reduction, universal justice, policy formulation, socio-political reform, economic recuperation among other key issues, it is quite evident that all this cannot be achieved in 16 days of activism. We need to look beyond the #16, because this is not just an episode but an entire series that needs more time and resources to achieve tangible results.
Concerns of gender-based violence have continued since 1991 when these #16Days were declared and endorsed for observation but we have had a considerable increase of these issues, meaning the #16days have not been enough to address these. Looking at period after 1991, we had a considerable number of women who were raped and tortured in the Rwandan civil war in 1994, the Kenyan violence of 2007, political violence in Zimbabwe in 2008. One may note that these were war and conflict scenarios, but does a war push people to rape others? If it doesn’t, then why has the protection of women during these times been so un-prioritised. It shows a lack of will to do so by the nations as a whole.
We also started hearing issues of human trafficking for prostitution and drug smuggling in South Africa, Nigeria and other countries by some business pimps, women were the main objects used for these deals. Boko Haram also came in with their religious expediency and manipulated young girls, depriving them of their right to education and dignity. There are a lot of issues we can relate to but in all honesty, the idea is that we need to look beyond the #16 because it is not enough. Of course there are men who have shared the same fate, as such looking beyond the #16 is a win-win for both men and women.
We need to start looking at the #16days as a starting point towards something bigger and better; as a process to making the world a safer and better place, extending to the protection of women and men. Everyday should be a lifestyle of being conscious of each other’s rights and their protection.