Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ecofepa not here to challenge any parliament - Says President Jammeh, as he launches the Association

The Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh has made it categorically clear that the establishment of the Ecowas Female Parliamentarian Association (ECOFEPA) is not here to challenge any parliament including the sub-regional bloc parliament, stating that it was established to strengthen their resolve to eradicate abject poverty not only in West Africa but in the entire continent.

President Jammeh was speaking Thursday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi while delivering a keynote speech during the formal launching of Ecofepa in The Gambia. The launching of the Association, with a membership comprising of both past and present Ecowas female parliamentarians, brought together key political figures and gender experts including the Gambia?s vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, the speaker of the National Assembly, the chief justice, cabinet ministers and sub-regional parliamentarians, amongst others.
President Jammeh, whose contribution to the advancement of African women was applauded by the sub-regional delegates, described the launching of the Association as solemn and a victory for participatory democracy in the Ecowas sub-region. "It is solemn because this is the first time in contemporary history that women of substance and vision who incidentally are the elected representatives of not only women but also men from all over West Africa, have come together in unity and purpose and resolve, to complement collective efforts of statesmen and state-parties in integrating the peoples of West Africa," the president explained.
He strongly emphasised that for development to take root in West Africa, all hands must be on deck. The fact that the elected representatives are resorting to an alternative avenue different from the platform provided by the Ecowas parliament, according him, shows that there is the need for alternative views and strategies.
Crucial role of women

To this end, The Gambian leader underscored the crucial role women play in society, citing their critical position in their respective homes. He described women as first schools of thought for anybody irrespective of the person's position in the society, stressing that maximum honour and respect should be given to them. He said the importance of women in socio-economic development cannot be overemphasised, explaining that this has been the reason his government gives women empowerment topmost priority.
He however dispelled any assertion that African women are neglected, given the fact that they are today, especially in The Gambia, more empowered than during the colonial era. He stated that today in The Gambia a woman is not poor because she is a woman, and pointed out that the women of this country are today better-off due to their hard work.
He told the gathering that The Gambian women have been in the forefront in all facets of national development, citing the appointments of women in cabinet including the vice president, as well as three women being at various times speakers of the country?s legislative house, amongst others.
Unity in Ecowas

President Jammeh also used the opportunity to stress the need for unity and a pragmatic approach to the harmonisation and integration of West Africans. He bemoaned the fact that today there are enormous problems in the West African region, saying that despite being rich in terms of natural resources, it still remains poor.
The president attributed the failure and the lack of ability to utilise the region's resources to the political misunderstanding and disunity at the level of the Ecowas bloc. "Despite the 30 years existence of Ecowas, we are still more divided now than before. Thirty years of Ecowas existence, we have not shown any infrastructural development as an achievement. Thirty years of Ecowas existence, we still cannot trade among ourselves, and we cannot even harmonise our common tariff. These are the sad realities," he stated.
He pointed out that Ecowas today has two monetary zones instead of one due to the unwillingness of the Francophone and the Anglophone to come together as one. This, he stressed, is among the factors why Ecowas is still finding it difficult to harmonise and integrate the sub-region.
The Gambian leader then urged Ecofepa to discard any sort of discrimination that will undermine the success of the Association, urging the members to see themselves as one body representing the people of the sub-region irrespective of being an Anglophone or Francophone. He then assured the Association of his government's support, while also assuring the Haddy Nyang Jagne, a Gambian who was elected the first president of Ecofepa of the nation's support.
The minister of Trade, Employment and Regional Integration, Abdou Kolley lauded the Gambia's stride in women empowerment, saying the effective implementation of Ecofepa's activities will provide economic opportunities and assist women and girls meet their developmental aspirations. He stressed the need for the numerous declarations and pledges made for the welfare of women and children to continue working for their total development and protection from economic exploitation and violence in particular.
He urged the members of Ecofepa to redouble their efforts in making the association a driving force for positive change in the region. Speaking earlier, the newly elected president of Ecofepa, Honorable Haddy Nyang Jagne, who is also a National Assembly member for Jeshwang Constituency, said her association seeks to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of Article 63 of the Revised Treaty of Ecowas. This article, she informed the gathering, enjoins member states to formulate, harmonise, co-ordinate and establish appropriate policies and mechanisms for the enhancement of the economic, social and cultural conditions of women. She expressed her resolve to collaborate with all the various stakeholders with a view to consolidate the gains registered. While commending the Gambian leader for his immense support to the advancement of African women, Honorable Jagne, who is also a member of the Ecowas parliament, thanked the president of Liberia, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her support.
Gambian-born Aminatta Dibba, director of Ecowas Gender Development Centre on behalf of Dr Adrienne Diop, Commissioner for Human Development and Gender of the Ecowas Commission, said the establishment of the Association will greatly contribute in the ongoing efforts to respond adequately to the challenges posed by the legislative dimensions of the fight for gender equity and equality in the sub-region. She expressed hope that Ecofepa could play a very important role in the consolidation of democracy, good governance, the rule of law and the respect for human rights in the Ecowas region. She then thanked the president for the strides made in the women empowerment endeavours.
For her part, Katrine Wasin, who represented the president of Liberia at the launching, thanked Ecofepa for this achievement. She spoke at length on the need to improve on the capacity gap in our societies, noting that the capacity gap at our institutions leaves much to be desired.
The Liberian president's representative expressed their resolve to work towards the advancement of women and girls, with emphasis on educating girls and protecting them from all forms of abuse and exploitation. Deputising for the speaker of the Ecowas parliament, Honorable Victoria Saidu Kamara, fourth deputy speaker of the same parliament, thanked the Gambian leader for his immense support to the Ecofepa since its preliminary meetings last year to date. She told the gathering that the Ecowas parliament has constantly supported the idea of the establishment of this Association, noting that it issued a resolution to that effect since 2002.
Honorable Mullica Adeola of Ecofepa who delivered the vote of thanks, expressed gratitude to the Gambian leader for his immense support to them, describing him as a leader ahead of many of his colleagues. In the same vein, she equally thanked the Liberian president for her support and encouragement. The occasion, which was punctuated with presentation certificates to the Association's members, also saw the awarding of Presidents Jammeh and Serleaf for their support to the association. The well attended launching was chaired by Modou Saidy, press officer at State House.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010



Fact #1: 17.6 % of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape. Of these, 21.6% were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32.4% were between the ages of 12 and 17. (Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, November, 2000)
Fact #2: 64% of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date. (Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, November, 2000)
Fact #3: Only about half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. African-American women are more likely than others to report their victimization to police Lawrence A. Greenfeld et al. (1998). (Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends. Bureau of Justice Statistics Factbook. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice. NCJ #167237. Available from National Criminal Justice Reference Service.)
Fact #4: The FBI estimates that only 37% of all rapes are reported to the police. U.S. Justice Department statistics are even lower, with only 26% of all rapes or attempted rapes being reported to law enforcement officials.
Fact #5: In the National Violence Against Women Survey, approximately 25% of women and 8% of men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetimes. The survey estimates that more than 300,000 intimate partner rapes occur each year against women 18 and older. (Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, November, 2000)
Fact #6: The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years (Fisher 2000).
Fact #7: Men perpetrate the majority of violent acts against women (DeLahunta 1997).
Fact #8: Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted. (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) calculation based on 2000 National Crime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice)
Fact #9: One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. (Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998)
Fact #10: Factoring in unreported rapes, about 5% - one out of twenty - of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 19 out of 20 will walk free. (Probability statistics based on US Department of Justice Statistics)
Fact #11: Fewer than half (48%) of all rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police (DOJ 2001).
Fact #12: Sexual violence is associated with a host of short- and long-term problems, including physical injury and illness, psychological symptoms, economic costs, and death (National Research Council 1996).
Fact #13: Rape victims often experience anxiety, guilt, nervousness, phobias, substance abuse, sleep disturbances, depression, alienation, sexual dysfunction, and aggression. They often distrust others and replay the assault in their minds, and they are at increased risk of future victimization (DeLahunta 1997).
Fact #14: According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, more than 260,000 rapes or sexual assaults occurred in 2000; 246,180 of them occurred among females and 14,770, among males (Department of Justice 2001).

Fact #15: Sexual violence victims exhibit a variety of psychological symptoms that are similar to those of victims of other types of trauma, such as war and natural disaster (National Research Council 1996). A number of long-lasting symptoms and illnesses have been associated with sexual victimization including chronic pelvic pain; premenstrual syndrome; gastrointestinal disorders; and a variety of chronic pain disorders, including headache, back pain, and facial pain (Koss 1992).Between 4% and 30% of rape victims contract sexually transmitted diseases as a result of the victimization (Resnick 1997).
Fact #16: More than half of all rapes of women occur before age 18; 22% occur before age 12. (Full Report of the Prevalance, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, November, 2000)
Fact #17: In 2000, nearly 88,000 children in the United States experienced sexual abuse (ACF 2002).
Fact #18: About 81% of rape victims are white; 18% are black; 1% are of other races. (Violence Against Women, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1994.
Fact #19: About half of all rape victims are in the lowest third of income distribution; half are in the upper two-thirds. (Violence against Women, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1994.)
Fact #20: According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBSS), a national survey of high school students, 7.7% of students had been forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to. Female students (10%) were significantly more likely than male students (5%) to have been forced to have sexual intercourse. Overall, black students (10%) were significantly more likely than white students (7%) to have been forced to have sexual intercourse (CDC 2002).
Fact #21: Females ages 12 to 24 are at the greatest risk for experiencing a rape or sexual assault (DOJ 2001).

Fact #22: Almost two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone who is known to the victim. 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger (— 38% of perpetrators were a friend or acquaintance of the victim, 28% were an intimate and 7% were another relative.) (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005)
Fact #23: The costs of intimate partner violence against women exceed an estimated $5.8 billion. These costs include nearly $4.1 billion in the direct costs of medical care and mental health care and nearly $1.8 billion in the indirect costs of lost productivity and present value of lifetime earnings. (Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Atlanta, Georgia, March 2003).
Fact #24: Domestic violence occurs in approximately 25-33% of same-sex relationships. (NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, October 1996.)
Fact #25: Boys who witness their fathers' violence are 10 times more likely to engage in spouse abuse in later adulthood than boys from non-violent homes. (Family Violence Interventions for the Justice System, 1993)
Fact #26: An estimated 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually for sexual exploitation or forced labor. (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 2000)
Fact #27: Somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds. (UN Study On The Status of Women, Year 2000)
Fact #28: A University of Pennsylvania research study found that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to low-income, inner-city Philadelphia women between the ages of 15 to 44 - more common than automobile accidents, mugging and rapes combined. In this study domestic violence included injuries caused by street crime.
Fact #29: Following the Supreme Court's decision in 2000 to strike down the civil-rights provision of the Federal Violence Against Women Act (ruling that only states could enact such legislation), only two states in the country (Illinois and California) have defined gender-based violence, such as rape and domestic violence, as sex discrimination, and created specific laws that survivors can use to sue their perpetrators in civil court. (Kaethe Morris Hoffer, 2004).
Fact #30: A study reported in the New York Times suggests that one in five adolescent girls become the victims of physical or sexual violence, or both, in a dating relationship. (New York Times, 8/01/01)
Fact #31: At least 60 million girls who would otherwise be expected to be alive are "missing" from various populations, mostly in Asia, as a result of sex-selective abortions, infanticide or neglect. (UN Study On The Status of Women, Year 2000)

Fact #32: Globally, at least one in three women and girls is beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime. (UN Commission on the Status of Women, 2/28/00)
Fact #33: A recent survey by the Kenyan Women Rights Awareness Program revealed that 70% of those interviewed said they knew neighbors who beat their wives. Nearly 60% said women were to blame for the beatings. Just 51% said the men should be punished. (The New York Times, 10/31/97)
Fact #34: 4 million women and girls are trafficked annually. (United Nations)
Fact #35: An estimated one million children, mostly girls, enter the sex trade each year (UNICEF)
Fact #36: A 2005 World Health Organization study reported that nearly one third of Ethiopian women had been physically forced by a partner to have sex against their will within the 12 months prior to the study. (WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence Against Women, 2005)
Fact #37: In a study of 475 people in prostitution from five countries (South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia):

62% reported having been raped in prostitution.

73% reported having experienced physical assault in prostitution.

92% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately.

(Melissa Farley, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire, Ufuk Sezgin, "Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder" (1998) Feminism & Psychology 8 (4): 405-426)
Fact #38: The most common act of violence against women is being slapped—an experience reported by 9% of women in Japan and 52% in provincial Peru. Rates of sexual abuse also varies greatly around the world—with partner rape being reported by 6% of women from Serbia and Montenegro, 46% of women from provincial Bangladesh, and 59% of women in Ethiopia. (WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence Against Women, 2005)
Fact #39: So-called "honour killings" take the lives of thousands of young women every year, mainly in North Africa, Western Asia and parts of South Asia. (UNFPA)
Fact #40: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that 2002 saw a 25% increase in “honor killings” of women, with 461 women murdered by family members in 2002, in 2 provinces (Sindh and Punjab) alone. (Pakistan Human Rights Commission, 2002)
Fact #41: More than 90 million African women and girls are victims of female circumcision or other forms of genital mutilation. (Heise: 1994)
Fact #42: In eastern and souther Africa, 17 to 22% of girls aged 15 to 19 are HIV-positive, compared to 3 to 7% of boys of similar age. This pattern—seen in many other regions of the world—is evidence that girls are being infected with HIV by a much older cohort of men. (UNICEF/UNAIDS 2007)
Fact #43: : A 2005 study reported that 7% of partnered Canadian women experienced violence at the hands of a spouse between 1999 and 2004. Of these battered women, nearly one-quarter (23%) reported being beaten, choked, or threatened with a knife or gun. (Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, 2005)
Fact #44: In Zimbabwe, domestic violence accounts for more than 60% of murder cases that go through the high court in Harare. (ZWRCN)
Fact #45: a study in Zaria, Nigeria found that 16 percent of hospital patients treated for sexually transmitted infections were younger than 5. (UNFPA)


The following are a selection of other web sites at which to find and verify violence against women statistics.

Bureau of Justice: Crime and Victim Statistics

Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women

Family Violence Prevention Fund

RAINN Statistics

Violence Against Women Online Resources

World Health Organization: Gender Based Violence

Monday, March 15, 2010


Under the 1997 Constitution, women in the Gambia are accorded equal rights with men. Yet they continue to experience discrimination and inequality, largely because the patriarchal nature of Gambian society reinforces traditional roles of women. In addition, the country has a dual legal system that combines civil law (inspired by the British system) and Islamic Sharia. Provisions in Sharia are generally viewed to be discriminatory towards women, particularly in relation to marriage, divorce and inheritance.
Family Code:

Women in the Gambia face many discriminations and inequalities in regard to family matters. The laws recognise four forms of marriage: Christian, civil, customary and Mohommedan (which are governed by Sharia). The 1997 Constitution states that all marriages shall be based on the free and full consent of the intended parties, except under customary law which still supports the tradition of child betrothal. More than 90 per cent of Gambian women are governed by customary and Sharia law vis-à-vis their family relationships. The Gambia has no minimum legal age for marriage and the incidence of early marriage is high: a 2004 United Nations report estimated that 39 per cent of girls in the Gambia between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. Child marriage is not prohibited by law, and some girls are married off as young as the age of 12 years.
Polygamy is permissible under Sharia and is practised; Muslim men may take up to four wives. Wives whose husbands enter a second or subsequent marriage have the option to divorce, but they have no legal right to receive advance notice regarding the husband’s intentions or to give their approval.
Women also face discrimination in regard to parental authority. Sharia considers husbands to be the natural head of the family; as such, they have sole responsibility for matters concerning the raising of children.
Women’s rights with regard to inheritance depend on the law applied. Sharia provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares, whereby women may inherit from their father, mother, husband or children and, under certain conditions, from other family members. However, their shares are generally only half of that to which men are entitled. Christian women and female children can receive properties under the wills of their husbands or fathers, but may also find themselves disadvantaged. Their law of inheritance permits husbands, if they so choose, to will away all property and leave nothing for their wives and children. Gambian law offers no protection to women in such cases. Under customary law, wives are not entitled to the property of their husband unless – and until – they agree to let themselves be inherited by the husband’s family. In effect, such women are treated as a form of property to be inherited along with the rest of their husbands’ assets.
Physical Integrity:

Protection for the physical integrity of Gambian women is weak. Violence against women, including domestic violence and abuse is rarely reported, but its occurrence is believed to be quite common. Even though wife-beating is a criminal offence (and constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law), the police typically consider such incidents to be domestic issues that lie beyond their jurisdiction. The Gambia does have laws prohibiting rape and assault, which are generally enforced. Spousal rape, however, is not specifically recognised.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread, especially in the Gambian countryside. The practice of FGM is illegal under the Penal Code but, to date, there have been no prosecutions for violations. Previous data from the Demographic and Health Surveys indicated that virtually all Gambian women had undergone FGM. A more recent estimate from the CPTAFE (Cellule de coordination sur les pratiques traditionnelles affectant la femme et l’enfant), a local NGO dedicated to eradicating FGM and ritual scarring, suggests the figure to be 65 per cent to 75 per cent. The lower figure, if accurate, would represent a decline over recent years, largely due to efforts by women’s rights groups to raise awareness about the health risks associated with the practice.

The population sex ratio in the Gambia has been stable for the past 50 years, suggesting it is not a country of concern in relation to missing women.
Ownership Rights:

Women in the Gambia have very few ownership rights. Concerning access to land, only a small proportion of women have titles to land property. The problem is especially acute in rural areas: traditional and cultural practices allow women to have the right to usufruct over land but forbid them from owning it. All women, whether married or single, have access to property other than land.
The law does not discriminate against women in the area of access to bank loans or credit facilities, but women in the Gambia face several obstacles in this area. For example, most financial institutions will not grant credit facilities unless the applicant has adequate security or collateral: in most cases, they will insist on property in the form of land. Since access to land is problematic for Gambian women, so is access to credit. Because of tradition and cultural practices, rural women are, strictly speaking, thereby effectively denied access to loans and credit.
Civil Liberties:

Women in the Gambia have civil liberty. There are no restrictions on women’s freedom of movement or freedom of dress.

Afrol News (n.d.), Gender Profile: Gambia,, accessed: May 2008.
CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (2003), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Gambia, Combined First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/GMB/1-3, CEDAW, New York, NY.

CEDAW (2004a), Summary Record of the 645th Meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.645, CEDAW, New York, NY.
CEDAW (2004b), Summary Record of the 646th Meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.646, CEDAW, New York, NY.
ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council) (2003), Integration of the Human Rights of Wo¬men and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women, E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1, UN, New York, NY.

Morison, L., C. Scherf, G. Ekpo, K. Paine, B. West, R. Coleman, G. Walraven (2001), “The Long-term Reproductive Health Consequences of Female Genital Cutting in Rural Gambia: A Community Based Survey”, Tropical Medicine and International Health, Vol. 6 No. 8, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 643-53.
UN (United Nations) (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY.
US Department of State (2007a), Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Gambia, The, US Depart¬ment of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.

US Department of State (2007b), International Religious Freedom Report: Gambia, The, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rape : African Governments must Progressively and Aggressively Confront Pandemonium

The euphoria surrounding rape in Africa continues to be one of the most contentious issues facing governments around the continent. With the transformation of the continent along political, economical and social lines, the raping of women and girls brought to light the troubling reality for governments of both conflict and non-conflict-ridden societies. Rape has become so prevalent that a concerted global call for action has taken a forefront of international and African affairs.
International Human Rights Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations, in collaboration with the United Nations, and grass-roots civil society organizations in Africa, took a leading role in urging governments to take punitive actions against the menaces of rape across the continent. However, until now, numerous African governments continue to struggle with the rape pandemic that is ravaging the livelihood of women and girls across the continent.

Nonetheless, with the concerted International efforts, several international legal instruments were introduced and adopted by governments around the world- African governments included. The world has since then seen the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 (Women, Peace and Security), 1820 (Sexual Violence in Conflicts) and most recently 1889 (Women, Peace and Security). These resolutions were founded on the fundamental premises of protecting women and girls, thus calling for their adoption, and punitive action against perpetrators.
Several governments responded positively through the adoption of prescriptive measures as codified under the doctrines of international legal mechanisms targeting rape and sexual violence. For example, countries such as Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Rwanda and Burundi adopted National Action Plans empowering and combating rape and sexual violence against women. Several other countries adopted legislations progressively and aggressively dealing with rape, sexual violence, and the empowerment of women. Today, almost all African countries have constitutional provisions targeting the onslaught. How that translates to protecting women remains to be the very good old question.

Even though constitutional provisions are the hallmark of Africa’s effort in combating rape and sexual violence against women, sporadic cases in thriving democracies makes the situation an abject matter of concern for pundits, scholars, and policy analysts. Implementation mechanisms of adopted international legislations are what many African nations are grappling with. It is therefore imperative that African governments introduce national awareness programs through education, and review policing procedures for appropriate response mechanisms at grass roots level. The experiences of Liberia, Sierra –Leone and Rwanda in combating widespread sexual violence could be very pivotal in crafting a continental plan to deal with the conundrum.

In a most recent development, growing sexual abuse against girls in Senegal prompted legal reforms. Although cultural and traditional barriers is expressed to be a major concern in dealing with rape in a predominantly Muslim country, Senegal is reported to be taking progressive and aggressive measures in combating the menaces of rape. According to the BBC,

The ministry wants to allow state approved associations to bring suits as civil plaintiffs. This will enable associations campaigning for the protection of the rights of women and children to press on with the process, even if the fathers and mothers of children who have been raped do not file a suit," says Judge Kandji. According to the judge, Justice Minister Moustapha Sourang also wants tougher rape sentences. He has proposed a minimum of 15 years jail time for perpetrators.

In view of the societal stigma attached to Rape, African governments must embark on legislative reforms for a progressive and aggressive confrontation of the rape pandemonium. Although an African Union Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women calls on the elimination of all kinds of Sexual violence against women, it is imperative that an additional protocol calling for legal reforms for governments to adopt tougher punitive actions such as long term jail sentences, national awareness programs, and provisions allowing suits as civil plaintiffs, be introduced by the African Union for adoption by all member states of the African Union.
There is no doubt that once such an additional protocol is introduced and adopted, progressively and aggressively enforced, the menaces of rape across the continent may likely be effectively contained. What else could one say?


Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women’s Day Message From the African Women’s Development & Communication Network

“Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all”
March 8th is International Women's Day, a day that is recognized globally and in many countries
celebrated as a public holiday. Its annual commemoration brings into sharp focus the contributions
of women to the development efforts in all parts of the world. Bringing the focus closer home the
International Women’s day has been used by many African leaders to give an account of what they
have done successfully or otherwise to improve the lives of women and girls in their respective
countries. Since its first commemoration in 1975 during the International Year for women and later
throughout the global Women’s Decade (1976 – 1985) it was recognized internationally and in all
regions of the world that women and girls were not equally enjoying their rights compared to men
and boys. The purpose of the day therefore is to constantly remind men and women that without
the fulfillment of women’s rights to equality, development and peace we cannot achieve
sustainable progress for all.
Each year a theme is chosen at the international or national levels to guide the activities organized
in commemoration of the day. The theme for the 2010 women’s day celebrations is: “Equal rights,
equal opportunities: Progress for all.” It is the most appropriate theme for the year as 2010 is the
review of the implementation of the Beijing Commitments made to women by world leaders of 192
countries in 1995 at the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women.
It is thirty–five (35) years since the first commemoration of the Women’s day. What is the
significance of the celebration today? Apart from the usual singing and dancing, spending the
meagre resources allocated to the national women’s machineries on the national celebration events,
the staging of colourful parades and the attentive listening to the rhetoric of our leaders, what are
we really celebrating on March 8th 2010? Have we achieved equal rights and equal opportunities for
all women, or for men and women?
The response to this question is a resounding “No.” Despite the promises and commitments made
by world leaders in four global conferences on Women to address the complex issues that deny
women equal rights and opportunities the pace of change has been very slow. At the Fourth World
Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995 the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA)
adopted as the blueprint or framework to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment
goals as essential requirements for achieving progress for all. In March 2010 representatives of
member states of the United Nations are meeting at the 54th Session of the Commission on the
Status of Women (CSW) to review the progress made in the implementation of the Beijing
Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA). It is fifteen years since Beijing. Have the daily realities
of the lives of women and girls that make up more than half of the population of the world been
transformed? The reality is that women especially in Africa are still waiting for the promises of
Beijing to be realized in her life. SHAME!!!
Based on the findings of the progress review reports from Africa the gains are far below the
expectations of women. The situation of the African woman has not indicated significant change in
terms of the quality of life and the current global economic and financial crises, the prolonged
conflicts and situations of insecurity in many parts of the continent plus the climatic changes
affecting agricultural production and food security all combine to pose new threats to the
sustainability of the gains. Inspite of the global focus on the reduction of poverty in the world,
which in 2000 led to the adoption of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) majority of
Africans are still living in poverty.
All countries in Africa have placed poverty reduction high on their respective agendas and have
continued to heighten their actions and policies to address it especially in the last 15 years.
However, more than 50% of the people in Africa are poor. According to the UNECA Report of 2009
forty four per cent (44%) of Africa's population lives below the region-wide poverty line of $39 per
capita per month. However, the extent and severity of poverty varies among the sub-regions. The
least prevalent incidence of poverty is found in the North African sub-region where 22 per cent of
the population lives below the sub-regional poverty line of $54 per capita per month. In Sub-
Saharan Africa, 51 per cent of the population lives below the regional poverty line of $34 per capita
per month. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the incidence of poverty in rural areas tends to be higher than
that in urban areas. The majority of African women live in the rural areas engaged in agriculture
and it is this sector which has the lowest levels of income growth thus having women as the
majority of the poor people in Africa.
The key message for 2010 Women’s day celebrations is that the progress made in reducing gender
gaps in several sectors and under each of the critical areas of concern highlighted in the BPfA is far
below the expectations of the African woman. Fifteen years since Beijing majority of African
women are still experiencing discrimination in their public and private lives. Many still experience
poor health due to limited access to quality health services and poor economic capacity; majority
are in low paying jobs in the informal sector with no provision for social protection. One in every
three women in Africa experience some form of violence in their life time. The wars and conflicts on
the continent continue to expose women to untold suffering and loss of livelihood due to prolonged
periods of displacement and many have fled their countries as refugees and are living in squalid
conditions with little hope of over seeing their homeland again. The patriarchal systems continue to
perpetrate male dominance and control over resources combined with backward or outdated social
and cultural practices remain the biggest threat to African women’s emancipation and
Women in low income brackets, internally displaced women, women with disabilities are often
among the most affected by the discriminations that manifest in different forms. Many African
women are denied equal rights in employment when they are paid less than men for similar or
comparable work; they are denied promotions and training opportunities due to their reproductive
roles and responsibilities; shut out of high paying jobs and occupations because of prejudices
towards women in leadership; subjected to sexual harassment and abuse in their homes,
communities and at their work places and penalized for taking time off time to attend to family
emergencies or needs.
The 15 years’ Beijing Review is taking place on the heels of the commemoration of 30 years since
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
adopted in 1979. CEDAW prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and includes guarantees to
ensure that women and men enjoy their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights on an
equal basis with men. CEDAW (Article 2 (f) further obligates States Parties to the Convention to
"take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws,
regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women. Fifty–one (51)
countries in Africa have ratified CEDAW. The BPfA is one of the mechanisms through which
specific actions were proposed by UN member states to stem out discrimination against women.
The failure to meet the Beijing commitments is a clear indicator that sustainable development
cannot be achieved without the full recognition and respect for women’s rights as human rights. No
commitment is worth the paper it is written on without actions to follow. Therefore, as we enter
into the last five years of implementing the Beijing framework FEMNET is appealing to all African
women to stand up and be counted by determining to shape the future of our continent and our
own destiny. It is obvious from the experience of the last 15 years that nothing is going to change
substantially without us being fully in charge of driving the change that we desire to see. We have
to stand up against the systemic oppression that denies us equal rights and opportunities.
The African Women’s Decade (AWD) (2010 – 2020) declared by the Heads of state and government
in January 20091 presents to us a platform and opportunity to taking women’s rights in Africa a
notch higher so that it is not just the privileged few that enjoy and benefit from the positive
changes. One of the first and critical steps that we have to take is to recognize women’s agency.
Secondly, women must take leadership at different levels and ensure the implementation of
governments’ commitment to women. Thirdly, we have to further strengthen our capacities to take
actions collectively and individually at all levels as a key component of our broader strategy for
achieving systems change which requires the conscious involvement of different actors. As
Mahatma Gandhi rightly said “whatever you do may seem insignificant to the struggle, but it is
most important that you do it and do it well.” It is the sum total of all our actions that will bring us
closer to the achievement of equal rights and opportunities for women for the progress of all.
Freedom and emancipation has to start from within. It is not imposed from outside. African women
this is out time to use our strength in numbers, our creativity, resilience and various capacities to
achieve what is rightly ours.
African women who have benefited from the gains of the last fifteen years must determine on this
year’s International women’s day to open a new page and lead by the examples of those who came
before us in this struggle for equal rights and opportunities for women. The struggle though must
be without violence. However our strategies must focus on dismantling the powers of patriarchy
that hold many women in slavery and ignorance of their potential. We have to combine these
efforts with improving the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the impact of our actions by
setting clear benchmarks for each year of the Africa Women’s Decade. As Roselyn Musa of AWDF
noted in one of her articles on the ADWF website “It is evident that we would not be able to make
much progress without a framework of knowing if and what progress we are making towards
transforming the lives of African women for the better. Advocacy has to be accompanied by
monitoring progress at different phases of the decade.”
Throughout the women’s decade they must write a different story. Adequate funding is very
crucial to making our dreams to come true. Therefore, we commend the efforts of the African
Union for the setting up a Women’s Trust Fund. This will be an additional source of the much
needed resources for programs aiming to contribute to the achievement of equal rights and
opportunities for women and girls. Africa grown initiatives to increase resources available for
women’s rights work like the Africa Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), Urgent Action Fund –
Africa and the numerous ones that exist at the national and local levels must be sustained through
our contributions in addition to those attracted form other international sources.
The gender machineries at the country level, which are mandated with the promotion of gender
equality and women’s empowerment, have to be strengthened during the Africa Women’s Decade
in order to deliver reasonably on their agenda. African women must resist the current trends of
submerging the gender entities with many other under- resourced departments within
governments. Gender machineries must remain strong entities, with strategic positioning within
governments in order to have a clear voice within the decision making structures at the highest
level. They must be led by competent personnel at ministerial and departmental levels with a track
record of work on gender equality and women’s empowerment. They must be allocated adequate
resources needed to fulfill their wide and complex mandate and provide technical support to other
ministries on how to use a two–pronged approach to gender mainstreaming. The resources must be
adequate to support comprehensive monitoring of all other ministries and government institutions
on the impact of their actions and programs on the lives of both women and men. The existing
frameworks for monitoring and evaluation of women’s rights issues which be integrated in overall
monitoring mechanisms.
Ten years may give the illusion of a long time, but the reality is that time flies. With one wink of the
eye the decade is here and with another it will be gone. It is our commitment, determination and
resolve that will make the decade goals a reality. We must be able to look back with pride and
congratulate each other with a pat on the back for having made the best use of this unique
opportunity. Therefore on this Women’s day celebration we call upon all African women to hit the
ground running.
Women and girls’ empowerment and creating an environment that is conducive to the realization
of our full potential is a responsibility of not only governments but everyone in decision and policy
making positions and every man and woman in Africa and the world over. FEMNET calls upon all
actors, government, media, civil society organizations, the private sector, and most especially
religious institutions to contribute to building an ideal society based on the principle of equal rights
and equal opportunities for all. THIS WAY WE SHALL SECURE PROGRESS FOR ALL.
Some of the things that must achieve during the AWD include:
􀂾 The universal ratification and full implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
(the Maputo Protocol).
􀂾 The review and amendment of all laws, policies and practices that are discriminatory against women
and girls;
􀂾 Unity of actors to end all forms of violence against women and girls in Africa
􀂾 Building a strong team of Eminent persons that are committed to the advancement of women as one
of the critical goals and indicators for sustainable development
Share with us stories on your activities during international women’s Day. Send your stories to:
Happy International Women’s Day!!
Norah Matovu-Winyi
Executive Director, FEMNET

Thursday, March 4, 2010


A little boy asked his mother, "Why are you crying?" "Because I'm a woman," she told him.

"I don't understand," he said. His Mom just hugged him and said, "And you never will."

Later the little boy asked his father, "Why does mother seem to cry for no reason?"

"All women cry for no reason," was all his dad could say.

The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why women cry.

Finally he put in a call to God. When God got on the phone, he asked, "God, why do women cry so easily?"

God said:

"When I made the woman she had to be special.

I made her shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world,

yet gentle enough to give comfort.

I gave her an inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times comes from her children.

I gave her a hardness that allows her to keep going when everyone else gives up, and take care of her family through sickness and fatigue without complaining.

I gave her the sensitivity to love her children under any and all circumstances, even when her child has hurt her very badly.

I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart.

I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly.

And finally, I gave her a tear to shed. This is hers exclusively to use whenever it is needed."

"You see my son," said God, "the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart - the place where love resides."

Please send this to five beautiful women you know today. You will boost another woman's self-esteem! Send it to every man, so he can understand!

Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.