By Martin K.N. Kollie
It is time to go beyond just celebrating 16 Days of Activism and work together as seven continents in one world to put an end to violence against our mothers, sisters, aunties, daughters, and nieces. Promoting women’s rights is not only about talking, but acting to ensure they have equal access to opportunities in order to compete with their male counterparts. Women are not backyard gardeners or mere followers, but they are front-liners and forerunners whose impact on global growth and development remains visibly evident. Women too, like any other creature deserve a unique space in our society to fully maximizing their God given potentials and talents.
Whenever November 25th is approaching, women from different culture and creed muster an unbending courage to remind all of us about severe issues affecting their destiny. They usually raise their voices so loudly against all forms of violence. These women who are mostly vulnerable continue to experience countless number of abuses and inhumane treatments. Sometimes, they wonder whether violence against them will ever end. Some of them are even abused on the very day of their birth. This ugly history of cruel actions against women must come to an end now if we are serious about promoting a Universe of equal partnership.
It is not just enough to attend wonderful ceremonies and deliver sweet speeches in remembrance of women who have lost their lives as a result of violence against them, but it is time for national, regional, and intercontinental organs to enact tougher or legislations protecting our women from widespread abuses. We must not allow them to fight against their perpetrators alone. We must tighten our laws to discourage prospective perpetrators from violating the rights of women. We owe our mothers and sisters a solemn pledge to always ensure their maximum safety, security, and wellbeing. This is a pledge that burns our hearts so much to immediately take action whenever anyone of them is taken advantage off by unconscious creatures and wanton elements.
As men, we must treat women with a high degree of respect at every level of our interaction. We must not use our strength and status to abuse them. Until we can understand that women are not floor-mats and sub-creatures, but forerunners and front-liners like us, our one world will remain a place of gender inequality and inequity. They do not deserve to remain in the kitchen forever, but they too must sit in the living room to decide what kind of dish comes out of the kitchen. They too must which type schools the kids attend. They were not made to remain in the backyard, but to also come in the front yard and exhibit their great potentials. Women also have the right to shift public policy and determine their own destiny. Their selfless contribution to nation-building around the world remains an indispensable asset to mankind.
The issue of violence against women in recent time is too alarming, and if we fail to provide a timely response and solution-mechanism to problems affecting women every day, we too are nothing, but failures. There is no global peace when girls under 16 are sexually assaulted each day. How can anyone boast about equality when sexual harassment is still on the increase? How do we intend to prevent rape in our society when cases against suspects of rape are thrown out of courts as a result of cash inducement, political interference, and family intervention? How long will our mothers and sisters be treated in such a cruel manner? We stand with them today, calling on all world leaders and key stakeholders to exert more effort and utilize additional resources in order to eliminate violence against them.
For more than a century now, women have been subjected to all forms of human abuses such as femicide, sexual assault, force marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking, sexual harassment, rape, etc. Most often, these women are powerless and choiceless to resist these cruel acts against them. For instance, two women are murdered on average each day in Guatemala. An estimated 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002 alone. Approximately 130 million girls and women in the world have experienced FGM, with more than 3 million girls in Africa annually at risk of the practice. Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18. Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.
The November 2014 World Health Organization statistics on violence against women indicates that more needs to be done in order to protect women’s rights. Currently, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner. Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner. According to the Delhi Police Department in India, a woman is raped every 18 hours or molested every 14 hours in the capital.
The TRC report highlights the total of 46,188 sexual violations against women during our recent civil crisis in Liberia. Today, most of those who committed these heinous crimes are walking on our streets with impunity. How could anyone think about raping a child at 21 months old? This is really wickedness to the highest degree. Reports indicate that somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of women in Liberia have suffered some kind of sexual violence, and Time magazine reports that the number could be as high as 90 percent.
Where are we going as a nation when the fundamental rights of our aunties and daughters are trampled upon everyday by evil forces? There can be no genuine peace in this world when a girl child’s future is damaged as a result of sexual violence. Global poverty can only come to an end when governments of the World begin to prioritize women’s empowerment and girls’ education. The road to an inclusive global development is only possible when the transmission of violence against women is broken. We will continue to be at war with our consciences until the last survivor of rape receives Justice. Our bodies shall remain restless until all culprits of cruel crimes against women are held liable for their misdeeds.
We can no longer afford to keep silent about these issues. As of now, we are going to increase our energy to raise huge alarm against violent actions that affect our young sisters and mothers. I can imagine some of the things they go through every other day to survive. It is time to stop treating women as our enemies. They are not our enemies and they can never be! All men must take the lead not just by words, but by action. Women must be seen as front-liners like us too, and they must be given a non-discriminatory corridor to prove their extraordinary attributes. Some of them have unmatched talents that are still hidden, because we (men) have refused to accept them as our competing partners. This prehistoric way of life and ancient mentality got to stop, and stop now!
How quick are we to forget about the great legacy of women like Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Rosa Park, Mother Teresa, Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Simone de Beauvoir and others who laid down their lives to serve humanity? Surely, these heroines deserve our utmost tribute today and always. Even after their death, violence against women globally is still a major issue. Citizens of the world must not give up this fight. We must continue to fight until women are finally liberated from the scars of violence and all forms of abuses.
As we observe the 16 Days of Activism, my heart is with those children who are in the streets and orphanage homes. I can imagine what some of our sisters are going through every day. Some of them have not even seen a classroom before. I cannot say more than what my thoughts are on this issue because it is painful to even go further explaining some of the current realities around us. The only best strategy right that we can employ is to help prevent and mitigate the widespread violence against women.
Therefore, I am certain that these three recommendations to all nations around the world will help to put an end to violence against women:
The world can become a better place for all of us if we begin to take genuine steps to break the chain of violence against women. I wish all women a great celebration this year as they soberly reflect on issues affecting them during these 16 Days of Activism. For the next 12 months, we must make this theme a global slogan “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All!”
Let me now end in Swahili by saying “Kusimama sasa kulinda wanawake na ukatili” meaning “stand up now to protect women from violence”.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, student leader, and a young writer. He is currently a student at the University of Liberia reading Economics and a member of the Student Unification Party (SUP). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org