These are the sentiments tabled at the joint workshop of the PAP Committee on Health, Gender and Education, that was held during the International Women’s Day Commemoration.
The theme of the workshop was “Combating Gender Based Violence through Education: A Parliamentarian response towards achieving womens’ empowerment”.
In opening remarks, Hon. Hasna Houmed Bilil, Chairperson of the Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with disability said if there is still lack of political will and no accountability mechanism such as the laws that govern against the abuse of women continued, there would be no progress.
“The important role of the parliament is to ensure that reforms and laws are implemented”. Said Hon. Hasna Houmed Bilil.
Presenting on Women’s empowerment framework of the African Union, Dr. Litha Musyimi-Ogana; Special Advisor to the PAP President said that awareness about existing AU gender equality and women’s empowerment frameworks needs to be aggressively created.
She impressed upon the importance of including Women in economic, social and political decision-making. “Some of the things women fought for 100 years ago have been resolved, but till this day women are still facing some of the very same challenges” said Dr. Musyimi-Ogana.
She added that there is a need for the establishment of systematic institutional capacity building for PAP members to understand and champion gender issues.
Dr. Agnes Atim Apea from the African Commission on Human Rights, speaking on the harmonization of national gender policies using AU gender guidelines and the Maputo Protocol, called for the repeal of domestic laws that are discriminatory against women, also emphasizing that political will is essential to address violence against women.
Dr Apea also emphasized the need to harmonize the Maputo Protocol with national constitutions and national laws, to ensure that African women have access to domestic remedies in case of violations of their human rights.
Article of the Maputo protocol addresses the issue of violence against women. It also calls upon member-states to promote education for all through social communication and to implement rehabilitation programs for the victims, including the punishment of the perpetrators. Article 12 of the Protocol specifically calls on Parliamentarians to accelerate the ratification and domestication of relative continental legal instruments.
Ndeye Rosalie LO, from the NEPAD Gender Directorate called for further action for government to ratify and redress violence against women and girls in all spheres of life.
LO said the bill of rights of African women should be upheld, and leaders should address the lack of accountability and transparency mechanisms for the implementation of women and girls rights’ and their right to protection.
Regulations and guidelines for implementation of laws and policies are often said to be highly technical and in many cases, not written from gender specifics.
Speaking on combating Gender Based Violence, Nonhlanhla Sibanda, Gender Specialist at the Centre of Study for Violence and Reconciliation, said that GBV is a historical phenomenon in many cultures; with no limits of age, social, race , ideology and religion.
She said that factors that contribute to gender based violence are unequal power relations between women and men and rigid gender stereotyping of women and men, tolerance of violence in popular culture, lack of awareness and education of women’s human rights and rights to protection.
She dwelled on cases of lecturers and teachers that take advantage of students and learners, promising them marks for submitting to them.
“Lecturers would say that sleeping with school girls compensated for their low salaries,” Sibanda regretted. She said gender norms and inequality condone and perpetuate violence against women, therefore gender norms need to be reconstructed in order for women are not taken advantage of.
Studies have shown that education increases womens’ empowerment and invariability reduces the conflict of power between women and men often identified as the root cause of Gender Based Violence.
Given the extensive and growing participation of women in income generating activities, education for girls and women is particularly important, especially in attempting to reverse gendered patterns of discrimination.
African states should therefore make preventing GBV and promoting gender equality through education a priority especially for women and girls.