Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, has indicated that discrimination against women and girls and inequality have unbearable burdens and costs on economies around the world, especially Africa.
He made this known on Thursday, November 25, 2021, when he attended the inaugural conference on violence against women and young girls, held in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr Akufo-Addo attended the conference in his capacity as African Union Gender Champion.
Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Hakainde Hichilema, President of Zambia, Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of DR Congo, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, in a group photo on the sidelines of the Kinshasa Conference
In his speech, he urged participants at the conference “to be guided by the fact that discrimination and inequality have unbearable burdens and costs on our economies, societies and the development of the African continent.
He urged that “Let us all stand together to create a bold, visible force for gender equality, saying no to acts and threats of violence against women and girls.”
Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of DR Congo (left) and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda (right) exchanging pleasantries at the conference on Thursday, November 25, 2021
More on violence against women
The World Health Organization (WHO) in a report dated March 4, 2021 sighted by African Entertainment on its official website, lamented that violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.
The WHO estimates that about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
According to the report, “most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.”
The report added that “Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and may increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings. Violence against women is preventable. The health sector has an important role to play to provide comprehensive health care to women subjected to violence, and as an entry point for referring women to other support services they may need.”
Ahead of the 2021 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the United Nations (UN) and regional experts bemoaned in a statement that “Women and girls everywhere continue to be subjected to multiple forms of gender-based violence, including femicide, online violence and domestic violence,” calling on States to exercise due diligence and to fight pushbacks on gender equality.
According to the statement, “Although they represent more than half the world’s population, women and girls the world over are still at risk of being killed and subject to violence, intimidation and harassment when they speak out – for the simple fact of being women and girls. Violence against women and girls is the result of intersectional forms of social, political, economic, racial, caste and cultural discrimination perpetrated daily against women and girls in all of their diversity, including in the context of armed conflict, and States and the international community have the obligation mandated by international human rights law and standards to address this violence. Together, these forms of discrimination not only aggravate the intensity and frequency of violence but also sharpen the impunity that exists against it and increase societal and individual readiness to allow it.”
It added that “Of particular concern is the fact that not only women and girls continue to be subjected to multiple manifestations of violence but that the spaces where this violence takes place have also multiplied. Nowhere is this more apparent than within online spaces, including social media. Governments, private companies and others may seek to hide their responsibilities behind the seemingly “borderless” nature of the internet. But human rights are universal and, as such, there is one human rights regime that protects the rights of women and girls offline as well as online, and that demands zero tolerance for violence against women and girls in the digital space. Violence against women and girls flourishes because those who seek to silence women and girls and facilitate their exploitation, abuse, maiming and killing are not firmly prevented from and held accountable for their actions.”
The statement further noted that “It is unacceptable that in today’s world where humanity and life on this planet faces the existential threats of climate change and toxic pollution amidst a proliferation of conflict; the COVID-19 pandemic has killed at least 5 million people and infected at least 250 million worldwide in less than two years, also causing an increase in domestic violence against women, that women and girls are unable to participate fully in responding to these threats or in the search for solutions because they are discriminated, abused and continue to suffer violence, including sexual violence, exploitation and death on the basis of their sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. These global crises interact with and further deepen pre-existing inequalities as well as legal, institutional and policy gaps to eliminate gender-based violence against women and girls, which in many cases, worsen them. Indigenous women, internally displaced women, women with disabilities, lesbian and transgender women and women belonging to other vulnerable or marginalized groups are particularly affected by the failure of these policies to prevent such violence, as well as protect and assist survivors.”
It explained that “While a number of States, non-state actors and other stakeholders have stepped up their interventions and resource allocations to prevent and respond to gender-based violence against women and girls, more effort in terms of both financial and non-financial interventions is needed to make these approaches truly transformative, particularly with regards to prevention, to avoid that policies remain ‘gender blind’, ‘gender exploitative’ or ‘race neutral’. Many of these policies do not disaggregate data based on social and racial constructs which discriminate, marginalize, exclude, and violate women and girls. These policies need to transform the prevailing social, economic and political systems that produce, nurture, and maintain gender inequality and drive violence against women and girls everywhere, through increased investment in their education and skills development, access to information, social services and financial resources, and support for positive representation and images in public discourse and social media. Collectively, they need to do more to challenge the patriarchal social norms and constructs of masculinity, femininity, racism and casteism that are based on extremely harmful stereotypes and which can cause psychological, physical, emotional and economical harm, including for women of colour, including those of African descent. These stereotypes pervade state institutions as evidenced by the lack of accountability for many cases before law enforcement and justice systems. States must also ensure access to comprehensive physical and mental care for survivors of gender-based violence, as part of the full range of quality sexual and reproductive health care that must be available for all.”
In attendance at the conference in Kinshasa were former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Hakainde Hichilema, President of Zambia, Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of DR Congo, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, women’s and girls’ rights advocates, and other political figures.
President Nana Akufo-Addo (left) interacting with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the conferenceFormer President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaking at the conference on Thursday, November 25, 2021