African countries pledge to fight violence against women in UNbacked campaign

Some 170 participants at a colloquium in Benoni, South Africa, pledged to take up the challenge issued by UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative Macharia Kamau “to work together to build partnerships, establish a common vision and take common action” to end violence against women and children in their respective countries. “If apartheid was not brought down as recently as 12 years ago, we would not be sitting together in the same room,” Mr. Kamau said. “If we could bring about massive democratic changes so successfully, we can end violence against children and women,” he stressed. The five-day meeting, which ended yesterday, was hosted by the Government of South Africa in partnership with UNICEF and the Government of Denmark. UN agencies around the world are teaming up with rights organizations in the campaign, 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women, with various activities and awareness-raising programmes. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has cited a whole raft of issues to tackle in response to gender-based violence, from bride burning and sexual violence as a weapon of war, to genital mutilation and ‘breast ironing,’ to date rape and child marriage, and has proposed a range of steps from greater overall publicity and an end to silence over spousal abuse, to pushing for legislative reform and providing safe havens for girls escaping coerced marriages. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres has cited a “massive” culture of neglect and denial about violence against women, and said refugee populations are in the front line of the scourge. read more