16 days campaign 2022 in Africa: Regional Forum on Strengthening the Women’s Movement to End Violence.

by Asmaa Elwahy

16 days campaign 2022 in Africa: Regional Forum on Strengthening the Women’s Movement to End Violence.

Women’s Movement to End Violence against Women and Girls in West and Central Africa holds its first regional meeting in Abidjan during the UN Women High-Level Forum to recognize, celebrate and strengthen civil society in the region.

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, December 2022 – On December 7 and 8, the Forum on Strengthening the Women’s Movement to End Violence against Women and Girls in West and Central Africa was held, organized by the United Nations Organization for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). The Forum is being held as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a landmark civil society campaign that runs from November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls to December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Those high-level meetings were attended by the Ministers of Justice of Gabon, the Ministers of Women of the Central African Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, and representatives of ECCAS, ECOWAS and the Diplomatic Corps, international organizations of the United Nations System based in Côte d’Ivoire, and civil society organizations of the region. Representatives from the World Bank, UNOWAS and UNOCA also participated in this meeting and presented their results in the fight against GBV.

Mr. Diarasouba Moussa, Director of the Cabinet of the Minister of Women, Family and Children of Côte d’Ivoire, representing Mrs. Nassénéba Touré, opened the meeting in these terms: “Côte d’Ivoire is happy and honored to welcome you in Abidjan for this important forum, which takes place in a context of increasing violence against women and girls, exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, political and humanitarian crises and climate change. This forum, which is a framework for strategic exchanges between governments, civil society and the media, will allow for the production of relevant recommendations in the framework of prevention and the financing of national mechanisms to fight against GBV”.

Women’s civil society organizations from Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo all had the opportunity to learn about prevention, activism and winning strategies in their countries to end gender-based violence (GBV).

Mrs. Sandra Oulate Fattoh, the Director of the ECOWAS Gender Development Center, emphasized in her speech: “There is too little information on women’s movements and activists around GBV, hence the relevance of this forum to document and collect data on these movements. There is a worldwide increase in cases of GBV, especially in Africa. The COVID has also caused devastating effects, such as the feminization of poverty. We must all work together so that women and men in our region can live in an environment free of violence”.

This forum was punctuated by panel discussions on various issues related to the fight against GBV, but also by a two-day exhibition on the movement of women and activists in West and Central Africa to end violence against women and girls.

Mrs. Kapinga-Yvette Ngandu, Commissioner for Gender Promotion, Human and Social Development of ECCAS began her speech with a minute of silence for women victims of violence before declaring: “Many humanitarian dramas are shaking Central and West Africa. We see violence in the context of armed conflicts, with deplorable cases of sexual slavery, abduction, early marriage of girls and harmful practices. This forum calls on member states to ratify all the constitutions that protect women, and to propose even more concrete measures. Violence against women is unacceptable in all spheres and we need to work with governments for sustainable solutions”.

The Forum not only maps and communicates the critical work being done by women’s movements and civil society in the region to end violence against women and girls, but it also aims to create spaces for exchange, sharing and networking to develop synergies and recognize, celebrate, and strengthen women’s movements.

Mrs. Florence Raes, Regional Director a.i. of UN Women West and Central Africa said: “We are gathered here for this forum as part of the 16 days, which we want to be a space where activists, civil society, governments and institutions can talk to each other, and reflect together for a stronger and more powerful activism in the region in order to identify the challenges and opportunities that remain and build together a common advocacy agenda”.

The meeting allowed for a diagnosis of the current situation of GBV in the sub-region, the actions taken by governments and civil society, the challenges posed by the lack of funding and the shrinking space for civil society and women’s rights. At the end of the meeting, the participants adopted the Abidjan Declaration of the West and Central African Women’s Movement against GBV:a list of coordinated actions between civil society, institutional and non-institutional state actors for the elimination of violence against women and girls in the West and Central African region.

Based on the findings and realities of each country, the participants commit themselves and recommend the following actions:

  • Intensify advocacy with countries, regional and sub-regional institutions to strengthen the institutional and legal framework in line with international, regional and sub-regional commitments, including their effective implementation;
  • The establishment of a regional fund to fight against GBV in order to support civil society and governments, financed by states, donors and communities;
  • Localization of funding and actions;
  • The involvement of young people, especially girls, through social media, innovative communication tools (slams, etc.) including intergenerational approaches;
  • The implementation of a multi-actor framework (media, community leaders, associations, groups, etc.) and inter-ministerial monitoring and evaluation of GBV initiatives;
  • Institutionalize the collection and analysis of GBV data in all countries, at the sub-regional and regional levels, to support advocacy for sustainable behavior change;
  • Capitalize on and share good practices in the response to GBV, including knowledge management and communication for behavior change.

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