Where is justice? #PressforProgress #IWD2018
By Salina Sanou
Three weeks ago, I was a speaker at a very interesting consultative workshop entitled “Political Feminism in the Context of Agenda 2030”. Sitting in a very hectic Nairobi morning traffic and getting anxious about getting to the workshop on time, my phone rang and it was a friend working in a foreign exchange office.
Mary (as I will call her) had been on maternity leave. I asked her if she was back to work and she informed me that she had resigned from her job. During her first pregnancy her employer had given her less than two months maternity leave, and this time she was given again less than two months with a stern warning. Her employer said to her that there were so many young people out there in need of a job and if she continued with this pregnancy trend she would definitely lose her job. That was enough for Mary. She resigned. I asked her if her employer understands the Kenyan laws. Mary didn’t want to know and didn’t care, she simply felt despair.
How ironic that I was heading to a workshop to discuss “Political Feminism”! I was terribly disturbed by the conversation and wondered where is the justice for women like Mary? This was definitely a violation of a woman’s rights and tantamount to violence. Violence against women and girls (VAW&G) happens everywhere, in the work place, in our streets, in our homes and in the society at large. VAW&G does not always take a physical form. It can be verbal, emotional or psychological. The recent wave of sexual harassment that hit the NGO sector is a clear reminder that women and girls are not safe in any particular sector, even in those whose agendas promise to create a safe environment for women and girls to live and work in. Women and girls are also subjected to violence through traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriage, dowry murders, honor killings and the list goes on. And in regions tarnished by war, women bear the hardest brunt of violence, ranging from kidnapping to systemic rape.
Despite the achievements by women organizations at the national, regional and global levels, VAW&G persists and the numbers are on the rise. According to Global Fund for Women, more than one in three women worldwide have experienced physical violence; one in 10 girls under the age of 18 has been raped. Although 125 countries have criminalized domestic violence, these laws are often not enforced. VAW&G is a global monster that must be made extinct if women and girls must feel safe to contribute to the development of their countries. It is the collective responsibility of governments, CSOs and all stakeholders to ensure that VAW&G is eliminated wholeheartedly. Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)’s focus this year is a global campaign against inequalities – Faces of Inequality, and through this campaign we will address inequalities that perpetuate VAW&G.
Today on the International Women’s Day the GCAP coalitions around the world are joining forces with activists for this fight. Women and girls must feel safe to access their fundamental human rights: work in a safe and equal environment, access quality education and control their sexual health. Women’s contribution to society is well summed up by Thomas Sankara some decades ago:
“The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky”.
Salina Sanou is ACORD Head of Policy and Advocacy and GCAP global co-chair. She is based in Nairobi, Kenya.