Women Unlimited Eswatini 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence
Women Unlimited Eswatini hosted the 16 Days campaign event at the Mbabane Library to deliberate on interventions that address the root causes of violence within society. The event was grace by his Excellency the British High Commissioner, Simon Boyden who has a strategy to support 80 countries , including Eswatini to tackle gender based violence (GBV).
Women Unlimited Eswatini (WUE) is among eight women’s rights organizations that have benefited financial support from the UK Aid. This is for grassroots women’s rights organizations across 80 countries globally under the “What Works To Prevent Violence” programme to end GBV.This funding will improve access to services and help to shift harmful attitudes and behaviors to prevent violence before it even starts.
Women Unlimited Executive Director, Vimbai Kapurura, extended her gratitude to the British High Commission for continued support towards ending GBV in the country. Kapurura said one in three women and men experience some form of harassment everyday. She said one of the prevalent forms of harassment was sexual harassment which was hardly addressed. “It is unacceptable to treat any human being or any gender as a sexual object and to act in a way that causes them discomfort, including jokes or casual remarks”
Media has Increasingly sexualised content
“Our continued exposure to sexual content like TV series or motion pictures has actually dehumanized us. People have lost their sense of decency and they have forgotten how to act and communicate with other people of other genders” said Kapurura. She said these acts had increased expressions of dissatisfaction through sexual allusions and vulgar language. Kapurura said sexual harassment has occurred for a long time and survivors of sexual harassment face criticism and causes others to become silent or avoid the survivors. She said there is fear of people to share their stories because if they do it makes them look foolish and ashamed and harassment thrives when its victims are silent.
Kapurura said while GBV was not only on one gender, the majority of survivors were women. A study revealed that 43 per cent of men and 83 per cent of women have been victims of sexual harassment but the majority of victims did not report cases. She said there was power in speaking up and she pledged that WUE will raise awareness as one of the goals for fighting sexual harassment whereby empathy will be priorities.
WUE will support the strengthening of legal frameworks for laws to be in place to protect women’s rights and for legal recourse for survivors. In this goal she called for collaboration with stakeholders. “We also would like to provide support services such that support systems such as health lines, counseling centres and safe houses need to be established to assist survivors to their recovery journey. It is crucial to provide comprehensive services that, not only the physical but the emotional and psychological well-being of survivors” she said. Women Unlimited will also empower women who are also gripped by poverty.
Kusoma is a sexual harassment
Speaking during the commemoration of Women Unlimited 16 Days event, Dr Fortunate Shabalala alluded that both men and women could be victims of sexual harassment, but most often girls and women were likely to be exposed to violence than the other sex.She said how a person coats could be subject to sexual harassment. She said there was a lot of name calling in the streets, especially by the male gender towards females describing their bodies. Some harassers she said went to an extent of grabbing their victims’ body parts to pay attention to what they are saying, this she said could be a sexual harassment if done to a person and it degrades their dignity.
Shabalala is an advocate for gender based violence working with young people said the 16 Days campaign was an annual international campaign and has been observed for over 30 years since its inception. Shabalala said in her understanding , activism was an action of using vigorous campaigns to bring about political, social and economic change that would support young girls, women and everyone. This required that each and everyone was required to give themselves and invest with vigour so that absolute protection of women and children from the despicable act of GBV was realised.
She stated that the campaign should not only be within the 16 Days,but applied each and every day. “We are seeing a surge in GBV cases and just recently four women were shot in close range in Ezulwini and died” She said a lot more had been going on and , therefore, the call that everyday and every minute should be an activism against GBV realised.
The British High Commissioner, Simon Boyden, said it was concerning that the progress made over the last decade to prevent GBV was under treat. Boyden said the backlash on the rights of women and girls intensifies and the impacts of conflict, climate change and other crisis continued to dive up the rates of violence. Boyden stated that GBV was among the hardest to reach women, adding that women with disabilities were up to four times more likely than other women to experience violence. He also mentioned that studies from all over the world revealed alarming rates of violence against the Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual,Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people. “Ending GBV is a UK priority as reflected in the international women and girls strategy, which sets out how we will put women and girls at the heart of all we do by educating girls, empowering women and girls and championing their health and rights and ending GBV against them”.