In front of a crowd overflowing into the hallways of the UN, Her Honor, Mrs. Wina Inonge, Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, showcased the Girls’ Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods (GEWEL) Program to the 62nd UN Commission on the Status of Women.
On a beautiful fall afternoon in 2017, I visited a “female only” village in Telkouk locality, Kassala State, Sudan. There, a woman dressed in blue caught my attention. We were wearing the same color that day, and I soon found that she and I shared a few other things in common.
Do good intentions matter if they end up contributing to harm?
In 15 years of working in international development, I have asked myself this question many times, and the answer is always complicated. I learned working on the Uganda Development Responses to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) that even the most straightforward interventions – building a school, for example – can contribute to unintended consequences if they are not well thought-through. As Dr. Robert Limlim, DRDIP’s director, put it: “You build a school and it does not cause harm, but this school is built under social contradictions that impede equal access to education for boys and girls. If we want to transform social dynamics, doing good is not enough, we need to systematically address Gender Based Violence (GBV) in development responses to forced displacement.”
"I grew up raised by two parents who were farmers, but as I grew up, I hated farming." That's one of the first things I heard as I met with Ntuba Masena, the owner of a fruit and vegetable drying business in Lesotho. Ntuba remembered spending long days plowing the fields with her parents, and as a result, agriculture was the last thing on her mind. It's safe to say that it has been an unusual journey for the 61-year-old retired nurse who had reinvented herself as an entrepreneur and small business owner.
I hated the question, “Who is circumcised in this class? This question was often asked by my literature teacher when we were reading, “The River Between” by professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o. One of the characters, Muthoni, dies after being circumcised.
It all began with young girls, later, to be women grew up with no, or little rights, no voice and no choice, even to choose who to marry. On the other hand, men and boys were considered born with divine supremacy over women. Only men could think and act right, and they enjoyed total influence over the women in their households and sometimes outside them. A man’s power over women was absolute, omnipresent and unquestionable and our patriarchal society trained women to accept and live with it. Otherwise it was a taboo.
Growing up in the slums of Kawangware, gender-based violence (GBV) was no new term.
My earliest recollection of GBV is of my father, who was a drunkard shirker who jumped on any prospect to physically hit my mother. There had to be a reason to justify her swelling black eye.
It has now been more than five months since the last case of female murders was reported in Entebbe.
Between July and September 2017, 23 women were brutally attacked, battered, raped and murdered by strangulation. Wooden sticks were found inserted in their private parts, each left for dead in the cold town near Lake Victoria, and with them - a wake of fear among women across the country. By the 17th murder, former Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura, broke the silence by blaming the murders on jilted lovers, arresting 44 murder suspects and charging 22 in courts of law.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is still a widespread problem in Rwanda, with women remaining the primary people affected. However, the country is known to be a pace setter in the fight against this epidemic. Innovative national strategies and policies have been initiated by the government to eliminate GBVand promote gender equality at all levels.
Gender-based violence (GBV) has largely been understood as the act of violence against women. Hence society forgets that men also suffer the same way that women do, or even worse.
It wasn’t until I began to share my own story of survival that I realized how vulnerable men were to GBV. Two years ago, I was raped and I conceived a child as a result. I was 19-years-old at the time, but since the incident, I have written and spoken extensively about the aftermath of my rape. I cannot say that I don't think about my rape on a regular basis, instead it has just become a part of my primordial goo that courses through my veins and makes me who I am.