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16 Days of Activism: End Violence Against Women Now!

16 days of activism is an international campaign that happens annually, it starts off on the 25th of November, the international day for the elimination of violence against women and ends on the 10th December, the national human rights day. The campaign calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women. This year it is running under the theme “Orange the world: end violence against women now!”. Gender-Based Violence is a very huge problem in Malawi, as of july,2021,the Malawi Police Service recorded 10675 cases of Gender Based Violence, of which 1669 of those are of sexual violence.

How many more women and girls must suffer for this problem to be dealt with once and for all? Let us bear in mind that we seriously cannot eliminate this problem if we continue creating an environment which normalizes gender based violence in the streets, at work places and other places. Most of our cultural, religious, and social beliefs and practices largely contribute to cases of gender based violence.You might be tempted to mention that gender based violence occurs anywhere, yes it does but that doesn’t make it normal. It is a very abnormal behavior and it must be addressed as such.

Most of these rigid and retrogressive cultural and religious beliefs enforce the misconceptions that women and girls are responsible for the violence that happens to them. For instance, these norms and beliefs will dictate how a woman should dress, how she should act towards her husband and how she should behave in the community and anywhere else where men are present.

Gender based violence cases will certainly get worse than they are right now if we continue giving lesser punishments to the perpetrators, and if the public isn't properly informed on gender based violence issues. Everyone and not only girls and women should have information on the different kinds of violence which can happen to women and girls apart from physical violence. They should be well informed on where to report or get help ,apart from the police etc.)

In addition, professionals who provide support to gender based violence victims must be properly trained in handling such cases for instance the Police under the victim support unit. There have been several incidences where gender based violence cases go un reported because the victims fear humiliation or worse, not being taken seriously.

Everyone must understand that stalking, or any other forms of psychological and mental harassment are also forming of violence which are punishable by law. Everyone must know that any woman or girl can face violence regardless of their stature, (strong women), profession (i.e. sex worker), or status (single or married).

Cases of gender-based violence must be uncovered and the perpetrators must be exposed so it becomes openly challenged. Action has to be done at all levels from information dissemination to formation and reinforcement of policies and laws. Social, cultural and religious norms, beliefs and practices that condone violence, impose gender roles, or seek to control the lives of women and girls must be ruthlessly and thoroughly challenged and dealt with accordingly.

Thankfully, there have been a number of campaigns which are doing their best to help eradicate cases of harassment towards women. One of those is the festivals and events campaign which helps girls and women feel safe during festivals. They also offer real support in cases of harassment or violence

photo credit: Safe Events and Festivals Campaign