In #AfWOT we shall not be silenced on the plight of women & girls across Africa

There was a heart-breaking report in The Guardian newspaper last November.   The report is one of those crucial voices that ensure that the conscious of the world does not forget the plight of women and girls in conflict – especially in Africa.
You can read it here: “They killed my children and raped me. Sexual violence remains rife in Congo”.
Even though my daily life and work is strewn with the suffering and challenges faced by women globally, this report in essence summed up the exact reason why we will continue doing the work we do.   The Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC that was the main focus of the report is one of the conflict-ridden countries in Africa with very devastating pointers. It is also one of the very sad destinations in Africa where because of rampant sexual violence and the impunity that comes with it, women and girls who are repeatedly subjected to rape now only exist like shadows of themselves – rape has since sucked the life out of them.
For over two decades, peace in some parts of DRC has never been heard of. With this war comes the women and the girls bearing its full brunt in the form of Sexual violence.   Let me tell you about Mamie, the victim that I encountered in the Guardian report whose plight remains edged in my mind.   I will probably never meet Mammie but her testimony captured in one paragraph in the article spoke for all women and girls in Africa caught up in violent conflict.
“I was raped in my home, next to my husband’s body, in the presence of my children. It was late last year during the violence, I had five children. They killed three of them, leaving me with just two.  They raped my three oldest girls before killing them”.
Even though Mamie’s testimony was recorded by aid workers in Kanaga, she could have been speaking from any conflict zone in Africa where women like her continue to suffer unspeakable atrocities.  She could have been speaking most recently from the senseless Anglophone crisis in Cameroon where violence that has recently spewed out in areas such as Lewoh, Kumbe and Buea have left scores dead, injured and multitudes displaced.  Whenever there is violence such as this, the ultimate price paid by those who survive it is sexual violence often meted out on women and girls. Stories similar to Mamie’s are therefore not rare. Neither are they strange in conflict areas such as South Sudan, Somalia and most recently the Sudan.
Speaking of Sudan, there is cause to celebrate the thousands of nameless women on the fore-front of the Sudan revolution currently unfolding.   Whilst the rest of the world has been systematically “shut-out” of this conflict through the iron-fisted clamp-down on information spaces under the totalitarian Sudan regime, the role of women in the Sudan conflict is profound. Recently, in an article titled Sudanese Women at the Heart of the Revolution  reveled the reality of the conflict and the amazing role of women within it. Writers Reem Gafar and Omnia Shawkat affirmed the role of women in the Sudan Conflict thus; “..In opposing a militant government like Sudan’s, women are not limited to responses on the streets, but many are actively vocal as organized activists. Female activists in particular seem to irritate the regime the most; judging by their pre-emptive and on the ground arrests all over the country. They are held sometimes for days and weeks, often coupled with physical abuse and always with verbal abuse and threats. Their organization, tenacity and ability to reach people their male counterparts may not have access to – other women, families and relatives – makes women organizers especially effective. And their roles are not limited to just active times like these; their battle is a daily one fighting for women’s rights, for free speech and for fair governance.”  It is a testimony of defiance that spotlights the little highlighted role of organizations such as No to Women’s Oppression of whom many have been arrested, beaten and had their heads shaved to deter them but had instantly re-joined the revolution undeterred.  Similar to Sudan is the profound role currently being played by the women of Cameroon under the banner Women For Change Cameroon and the South West North West Women’s Task Force, SNWOT.
The DRC, Cameroon and Sudan are not the only countries in Africa where violence against women has escalated within spiraling conflicts. Violence does not only manifest in conflict but also in socio-cultural perceptions that continue to discriminate and victimize women and girls.
As we mark the International Women’s Day, #IWD2019, it should dawn on us that the statistics of violence and abuse locally, regionally and globally continue to be as shocking as the actual acts of violence. It is almost as if, women and girls are synonymous to violence and conflict at any given time!
The UN Women opines that an estimated 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical or intimate partner violence.  When it comes to human and child trafficking, adult women account for 51%of all human trafficking victims detected globally while women and girls together account for 71%.  At least 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation in the 30 countries where the practice is prevalent, most of them in Africa.
It therefore makes it even more urgent for policy platforms such as the African Union and the United Nations to deliver and implement fully on policy frameworks and legal instruments that protect the rights of women such as the Maputo Protocol, the UNSCR1325, the CEDAW and many others that impact locally and regionally.   For African and global women at large these policies are the assurance that they will be safe and treated with equality and dignity.
Today, we at FEMNET mark #IWD2019 with the defiance and renewed zeal to push for solidarity and the strengthening of our collective voices through the launch of the African Women on Tweeter hash tag – #AfWOT.
#AfWOT is a plea for stronger solidarity an act of total defiance against Violence Against Women and a visible and an audacious platform for African Women on Twitter and other social media spaces to use collective power and push for transformation.
For the women like Mamie in the DRC and for all other Mamies in the continent who are wilting under the ravages of gender based violence, sexual violence and other forms of socio-cultural oppression, we stand with you today by pushing out your voice in #AfWOT.

We shall not relent in this struggle until ALL women and girls are safe.

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Written by Memory Kachambwa, Executive Director, FEMNET

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