HARARE – The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence comes against a back drop of increased media focus, thanks to more women that are survivors of gender based violence (GBV) speaking openly about their experiences.
This is an opportune time to double our efforts to end violence against women and girls – leaving no one behind – as part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 focusing on gender equality.
Leave no one behind means leave no girl and woman behind.
Leave no perpetrator behind, regardless of who it is and what standing he has. It also means leaving no institution behind, regardless of how sacred it is.
Ireland believes in investing in prevention of GBV and providing support services to survivors of GBV.
Doing so improves the economic and social development of a country and enhances society.
There is a need to do more to prevent GBV in Zimbabwe. For instance, one problem encountered is the low awareness of services that are available to GBV victims within the first 72 hours after rape.
It is extremelycritical for rape victims to visit medical clinics in the first 72 hours after sexual violence to prevent STIs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), and HIV infection.
Ireland hopes that ongoing information campaigns in Zimbabwe can make this known to all survivors of GBV.
Ireland will therefore continue to support the joint UN-program to fight GBV for the coming three years in Zimbabwe.
Combating GBV is first and foremost a leadership challenge.
Leaders in homes, churches, government departments, UN agencies, NGOs, private sector organisations need to take a stand and not tolerate violence against women and girls.
If our leaders do not set the compass in the right direction, both in word and in deed, other efforts will be seriously compromised.
Families should as a matter of principle value gender equality by nurturing and training children – both boys and girls – to develop a better culture around gender.
This will take deliberate effort on the part of parents. Parents will have to hold each other to account in terms of both teaching and demonstrating gender equality.
Especially important is the role of good fathers and husbands that can be champions against GBV and influence other men in society.
Institutional leadership have a responsibility not only to enact policies that safeguard against GBV but to also lead by example.
For instance, institutions should listen to the jokes, social talk and subtle comments that reveal the organisation’s culture around gender.
Institutions should set the right tone, reinforce positive behavior and address inequalities faced by women.
To end GBV, we need to work in partnership with all leaders in society.
Business owners, parents, grandparents, politicians, the coach, the chief, the imam/pastor/priest can help us achieve equity, end discrimination and eliminate social practices that increase gender inequality.
As we head towards the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, I call upon every man, woman, boy and girl to embrace a new culture that stands against violence.
We call upon you to value women and girls as equal to men and boys.
* Liam MacGabhann is the Ambassador of Ireland to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo.