Now is the time to intensify efforts to fight it. It does no good to women other than pain and suffering both physically and emotionally. It is a violation of women’s rights of a very high degree. It demeans their personality and humanity. It prevents women from enjoying life and above all their fundamental rights and freedoms.
It further prevents them from realizing their fullest potentials and possible contributions and benefiting equitably from development of their families and societies. In many ways violence against women retards their efforts for personal advancement and impedes efforts towards poverty reduction because women’s potential is not utilized optimally.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) -up to 70 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and wars combined.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, between 13 per cent and 45 per cent of women suffer assault by their intimate partners during their lifetime and as we speak over 3 million girls are at risk of female genital mutilation. Violence against women is undermining our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. We know for a fact that some African countries will not achieve the MDGs that have key indicators on gender matters and others partly because of gender based violence.
The objective of reducing poverty, ending hunger, deprivation and promoting socio-economic development for all peoples on all continents will not be realized if violence against women and girls continues. The gender related MDG include MDG 2, on access to universal primary education; MDG 3 on promoting gender equality and empowering women and MDG 5 on reducing maternal mortality. We cannot achieve our objectives if young girls are being abducted on their way to or from school.
If in many of our countries, girls are forcefully married off at a very tender age, putting them at risk of getting pregnancy at too young an age and at risk of contracting HIV/ AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Shamefully there are over 14.1 million girls in Sub-Saharan Africa who are child brides, married before the age of 18. Violence against women and girls is a daily occurrence, it takes place during times of peace in the confines of homes, in the streets, in the bushes and everywhere.
It is exacerbated during conflict where rape becomes a weapon of war. It affects women of all ages: children, teenagers, adults and elders. Nobody is spared. It is not uncommon these days to hear reports of elderly men have defiled girls under 10 years old, or young men being incarcerated for having abused elderly women who are their mothers or even grandmothers. This is not only an expression of moral decadence of the highest order happening in our societies, it is, also, cruel, inhumane and above all criminal. I
t therefore, deserves our unequivocal condemnation and calls for concerted efforts to end this diabolic behaviours and actions. We cannot swallow our pride. I am pleased to note that while the situation may look challenging, but it’s not hopeless. African Heads of State and Government have taken a positive stand. Firstly, we enshrined in Article 4 (L) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union the inclusion of the gender parity principle.
This provides for a moral obligation for all Member States to enshrine this principle in their national constitutions, legislations and socio-economic development policies and programmes. I want to assure you that Tanzania remains committed to the pursuit of gender parity and fighting violence against women. We will not falter in this endeavour. I am ready to work with my colleagues in other countries to promote this noble cause in the African continent.
We also have the ground breaking Protocol on African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. The Protocol was adopted by the African Union on 11 July 2003 at its second summit in Maputo, Mozambique. On 25 November 2005, having been ratified by the required 15 Member States of the African Union, the Protocol entered into force. As of July 2010, a total of 28 Member States had ratified and deposited the instruments of ratification with the AU Commission.
Today the Protocol is used as an important tool for holding Governments accountable on the commitments we have made. There is also a Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa. As you know there are many other such instruments. In addition to these instruments, we also have various mechanisms that have been instituted to ensure that these frameworks are implemented. These are important frameworks that were adopted to facilitate actions to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls and to provide for effective and adequate services to survivors.
We know that policies and legal instruments mean very little without commensurate implementation measures and actions. Governments have to walk the talk. We must ensure that our actions speak louder than words. It is required of us to adequately reflect on our national plans, programmes and budget measures to promote gender parity and fight against gender based violence.
The Africa UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women and Girls provides an important opportunity to galvanize us all into action to implement the frameworks and instruments I have referred to above. It provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to engage in innovative sustained actions to prevent, prosecute, punish and provide effective responses to violence against women and girls.
I t invigorates us to renew our commitments, to mobilize more strongly not only the Government entities but also the private sector, civil society, community based organizations, men and our traditional leadership structures and decision makers. Indeed, the Campaign has placed the United Nations system at the center of such efforts. We look forward to engaging further with the United Nations in the country on how we can strengthen our national response.
We want to ensure that we have a comprehensive response package to fighting gender based violence in the country. We want to report, in 2015, that indeed we have met the targets set out in the SADC Gender and Development Protocol. We look forward to both the technical and financial support to achieve this. This is part of a speech by President Jakaya Kikwete at a ceremony to flag off “Climb Up –Speak Out” Mount Kilimanjaro Climb to end violence against women and girls at Marangu, Kilimanjaro last Monday March 15.
Ninety gallant men and women from 36 African countries are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with the objective of drawing attention to the important issue of fighting violence against women and girls, as part of activities to mark WID. The event is taking place under UN’s Africa UNiTE Campaign.