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Stopping Violence against Women, the right and smart path to human development

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More women in decision making contributes to more stable and peaceful societies. Photo: UNDP

Some countries in Africa have made notable progress in enhancing women’s access to justice and reducing the incidence of sexual and gender based violence. In partnership with UNDP, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia and Mozambique have improved legal frameworks, response by law enforcement agencies in handling violence against women and established stronger mechanisms for providing support to survivors.

In 2015 alone, helpdesks established at police stations to assist women and child victims of violence in Burundi and Mozambique have supported 1160 victims of gender based violence in Burundi and 16,000 in Mozambique.  Gambia achieved a landmark in 2015, by banning Female Genital Mutilation through the amendment of the Women Act (2010).  In addition, DRC created multipurpose community centers to promote socio-economic reintegration for victims of sexual violence and made significant inroads in the fight against the impunity of sexual violence against women.  The creation of a more conducive security environment has resulted in a decline in reported cases of sexual violence related to armed conflicts from 15,333 in 2013 to 10,882 in 2015 - a decrease of 33%[1]. 

Yet despite progress, much remains to be done to address the scourge of Violence against Women in Africa and around the world.  According to the World Health Organization, early one of every two African women (45.6 percent) have experienced sexual or physical violence of some kind during their lifetimes mainly from persons known to them.  A wide spectrum of violence affects women, from domestic violence, intimate partner violence, rape, female genital mutilation, intimidation, and threats to women´s personal security in periods of war and conflict. 

The full health and economic cost of violence is far beyond individuals, it affects families and communities across generations.  It is estimated that the impact of intimate partner violence in terms of expenditures on service provision, lost income for women and their families, decreased productivity, and negative impacts on future human capital formation is costing countries between 1.2% to 3.7% of GDP a year.

Our Africa Human Development Report 2016 recognizes that the achievement of Africa’s development agenda rests on tackling the root causes of gender inequality.   The Report’s Agenda for Action advocates for four clear pathways to gender equality and women’s empowerment. First, ensure effective implementation of women’s legal rights such as freedom from fear and violence by overcoming the prevalent social institutions and norms that perpetuate inequality and violence against women.  Second, women must have a real voice in decisions that affect their lives in the family, community, in private and public space.  More women in decision making contributes to ensuring issues that affect women are prioritised and contributes to more stable and peaceful societies. Third, nations must make strategic investments for social empowerment to counter the effect of harmful social norms that block women’s education and health.  This includes recognizing, rewarding and reducing the burden of domestic and care work that falls disproportionately on women.  Finally, we must ensure women’s equal access to economic, financial, and natural capital and assets.

Building strong alliances and partnerships between public sector, private sector and citizen’s organisations is needed to exploit the multiplier effect of gender equality and women’s empowerment towards the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals.  So is promoting women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion. To that effect, we are supporting African public and private sector institutions to implement a Gender Equality Seal certification initiative that foster more equal opportunities and outcomes for women and men in the workplace.

Sexual and gender-based violence Africa Human Development Report Sustainable Development Goals Inclusive growth