Let’s invest in ending violence against women

Peter Eceru

What you need to know:

Survivors of gender based violence can be supported to gain back their full potential. This calls for deliberate efforts and well calculated investment.

Every November 25 to December 10, the international campaign on ending violence against women and girls unites activists, organizations and individuals across the world to raise their collective voices during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on violence against women and girls. Preventing and responding to gender-based violence is both a human rights imperative and a multifaceted economic issue. Beyond the physical and emotional consequences, abuse has grave economic consequences both on the family and the overall economy and has consequences on economic growth. This precisely explains why all must be concerned about the toll violence has on our country’s economic prospects.

Violence creates barriers for economic opportunity and growth; impacts the world of work; and can be an unintended consequence of economic activity. Discriminatory social norms and gender roles, weak implementation of laws that prohibit violence in all of its forms or inadequate enforcement and implementation of existing laws, and poor collection of data on the linkages between women’s economic empowerment and violence must all be addressed before women can achieve sustainable advancement. Government policies and interventions that are not designed to account for violence as a barrier to or consequence of economic empowerment risk undermining their own efficacy or potentially causing greater harm.

While employment or entrepreneurship can afford women the financial independence to leave abusive relationships or prevent violence, some economic empowerment programs may potentially increase violence. Due to discriminatory social norms that regard men as primary breadwinners, male family members may aim to reassert control by using violence against women who achieve economic success or become more active in economic activity outside of the home.

Violence and harassment in the world of work is particularly pernicious, having deep impacts on the targets of the abuse and on employers and industries. Women experiencing sexual harassment may endure physical, psychological and financial harm, which can cause secondary impacts on businesses.

To respond to the negative impact of violence, the government has invested heavily in strengthening the legal and policy framework for prevention and response to Violence against women. The challenge has been, to a bigger part, limited implementation. Currently, GBV prevention and response has substantially been left to the development partners.Government  needs to invest adequate resources in the prevention and response to Violence against women in Uganda. For example, Uganda has about 21 GBV shelters and all are managed by civil society organizations. The Ministry of Gender Labor and social development and Community services departments in Local Government are some of the least funded agencies in government, yet they are responsible for coordinating all GBV related interventions at national and local government respectively. Additional funding should enable community services departments in Local Government to engage in prevention activities including sensitization of communities, coordinating GBV prevention and response; enable law enforcement agencies including the police, Directorate of Public Prosecution and courts to expeditiously investigate, prosecute and conclude cases of violence against women and girls.

During these 16 days of activism, we need to break the silence, demand and implore policy makers, parents, religious and cultural leaders to make homes and communities safe for all, specifically girls and women, by highlighting and breaking the structural barriers that discriminate women and girls right from the home, community, and the school setting including government policies and systems that impact girls’ experience at school.

Survivors of Gender Based Violence can be supported to gain back their full potential. This calls for deliberate efforts and well calculated investment. We need to invest in deliberately expanding support for GBV services, including psychosocial support, health programmes, safe spaces and other specialized services, including case management.

This must go hand in hand with measures that address structural gender inequality.

Mr Peter Eceru, Program Coordinator-Advocacy

Center for Health Human Rights and Development