By Takawira Kapikinyu
I am not a woman but I have a wife, a sister and women friends who I love so much. It would break my heart if anyone would dare do anything to strip them of their dignity. It even breaks my heart if other women are demeaned and harassed for just being women and not conforming to what men consider to be their place. I get upset when women because of their sheer majority are used to vote men into office and the men are never accountable to the women who elected them or even seriously take women issues into consideration. Women are tools which politicians use to assume power not to serve them.
1. In June 2014 over 200 schoolgirls were abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram in Chibok Nigeria and the whole world rallied with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. Politicians, celebrities’ and the common populace took to social media with the call for the Nigerian government to take responsibility to bring the girls home to their parents and let them pursue their education. Nigerian women held demonstrations, held discussions with their president and he promised to bring the girls home. Several media reports quoted the military saying they had located the girls and would launch a military operation to rescue them. Other reports indicated that the government was in talks with the terrorists for the release of the girls. Six months down the line nothing has been done to rescue the girls and attention has focused to the general election and there is no talk of their plight.
2. Uganda passed a mini skirt ban, another dictate on what women should wear in public. Several women have been stripped naked in public for wearing skimpy clothes and miniskirts. Disgusting footage has emerged from Kenya where a woman was stripped naked for wearing skimpy jeans in public. In Zimbabwe women are constantly harassed and also stripped for wearing miniskirts. In all the three countries mentioned women have demonstrated against this behaviour but it continues unabated, politicians are nowhere to be seen, no prosecution recorded to date.
3. There was recently a report that African Union troops (AMISOM) in Somalia have been sexually exploiting young girls and women under their protection. No inquiry has been made to date to verify and bring those who committed such acts to justice. Eastern Congo has been labeled the “Rape Capital of the world” and to date many women are still seeking justice for the mass rapes and sexual exploitation that they have endured under the hands of either rebels or the army. Many of the accused have not been arrested while some of the leaders have been awaiting trial at the International criminal Court (ICC), far from their victims.
4. Recent efforts/campaigns to end child marriages have largely been a women affair, no meaningful policy changes have taken place to provide education to the girl child and keep them in school. Politicians still attend the rallies, conferences and marches but forget about it when they go back to their seats of power. In many African countries many young girls lack access to sanitary wear thus missing out school for at least 15 days every 90 day term while on their monthly period. Only private individuals and NGOs have come to the rescue and distributed free sanitary wear.
5. Politically women have lost power. In Malawi Joyce Banda lost the race to retain her presidency. This is despite her efforts to fight corruption and bring those responsible for it to book. In Zimbabwe the first woman vice president Joice Mujuru is on her way out after an elaborate scheme by a faction within her ruling party who do not want her to assume the presidency in the event the incumbent vacating. In Liberia the first African woman president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has largely been sidelined in managing the Ebola response in her country, it appears she is no longer in charge and responders come in and out of the country without fully strengthening the country’s health system.
The above examples illustrate the continued vulnerability of women in Africa. It is not in Africa alone where 2014 has been a bad year, but the world over. As we commemorate the International Women's Day (Sunday 8 March 2015), let it be a time to reflect, a time to have real meaningful personal and political changes. Let us come up with sustainable solutions to the problems African women face and let us advance women protection and accord them the same rights and privileges that men enjoy. When women vote they must demand accountability and have their promises fulfilled. Institutions must not fall behind, they should actively fulfil their mandate. Not only should they be resourced and manned but managed by competent people who are dedicated to service. Justice should be served by the AU and the UN on those who have been accused of sexual crimes while undertaking these institutions’ mandate. 2015 should be a different year for women in Africa.
Takah is a humanitarian aid professional focusing on emergency and post conflict response. He has worked for various organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid in Africa and around the world. His main focus is refugees, displaced people and gender issues. His passion is to help Africa realize a better peaceful and equitable path to development. He is a holder of Sociology and a Masters in Rural and Urban Planning degrees from the University of Zimbabwe, and is finishing his second Masters in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University’s Heller School (USA). He enjoys traveling and photography.