The African Development Bank is marking this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign from 25 November to 10 December.
This is a time to reflect on how gender-based violence is affecting our society and what we can do to end it.
Gender-based violence is a violation of human rights that hinders the well-being and growth of countries. This year, the Bank observes 16 Days of Activism under the theme: “What does it take? The African Development Bank’s efforts to Ending 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 unacceptable justification for crimes such as honor killings.
Gender-based violence is rooted in unequal power relations between women and men that is manifested in the gender inequalities that we see worldwide today. Statistics from UN Women tell us that nearly 1 in 3 women aged 15 years and older have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, non-partner – or both – at least once in their lifetime. Women and men, girls and boys experience gender-based violence making this a social issue and not just a “women’s issue.”
Our Bank Gender Strategy research shows that in Africa, 20% of women aged 15-49 are subjected to physical or sexual violence. As the Bank works to implement our High 5s, we encounter gender-based violence – and we observe that these incidences are often underreported due to stigma, fear, unavailability of reporting and support mechanisms, low awareness, the threat of retaliation and the normalization of gender-based violence as a way of life. With development bringing technologies like mobile and online services to enhance economic opportunities for Africans, there is the threat of digital gender-based violence: the use of information and communication technology such as the internet, social media, computer games, text messaging and email to inflict violence, abuse, and harassment in digital contexts.
The Covid-19 pandemic compounds the situation. There has been an increase in reported cases of gender-based violence, largely due to the loss of livelihoods and movement restrictions that kept many survivors at home for extended periods with their perpetrators. Research by UN Women found that globally there have been surges in cases of violence against women being reported upwards of 25% in countries with reporting systems in place. Pandemic lockdowns also shut down programs working to end and respond to gender-based violence. However, the Bank provided support to national Covid-19 programs that integrated livelihood support and gender-based violence schemes as pandemic-era “essential services.”
The African Development Bank has zero-tolerance for gender-based violence. Led by the Gender and Women Empowerment Division under the Agriculture, Human and Social Development Complex, the Bank will carry out a series of activities that will guide us to reflect on what more can be done to end gender-based violence in operations. These include several webinars to mark the campaign period and dissemination of good practices on ending gender-based violence.
We know that we can prevent gender-based violence through our individual and collective actions and support survivors better 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 planned discussions and make a personal commitment to ending gender-based violence in our homes, our communities and society.