Today, November 25, is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW), so-proclaimed on February 7, 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly (UN-GA) vide its Resolution Number 54/134.
The underlying objective was to raise awareness of the fact that women around the world are subject to what is generally acts of gender-based violence (GBV).
These include – but are by no means limited to – rape, domestic and other forms of violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women or girls.
For all practical purposes, such violence is usually considered to be a form of “hate crime” that is committed against women or girls specifically because they are female, pure and simple.
Most unfortunately, however, the nature and scale of violence against women (VAW) is more often than not kept under wraps. This is mostly to save face (often for the sake of the victims) or to save the perpetrators from what could amount to penal servitude if convicted in a court of law – or even lynching.
Tanzania is not far behind in fighting violence against women and girls in all its forms. For example, it was only on October 28 this year that Her Excellency President Samia Suluhu Hassan formally launched the country’s first Gender Bench Book on Women’s Rights which was jointly compiled by the Tanzania Women Judges Association (TAWJA) and UN Women.
But, fighting violence against women is an uphill task for a country where socio-cultural challenges – such as lower literacy levels and high poverty rates – combine with outdated traditions (that still dictate women as second-class citizens) to water down the fight.
Let us join the UN to mark “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” from November 25 to December 10 this year, under the 2021 theme “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”
HEED CALL ON MATERNAL DEATHS
The Annual Conference on Reproduction, Child and Youth Nutrition Services held in Dar es Salaam on November 17-19 this year came up with a recommendation worth pursuing vigorously. “Maternal and child mortality during pregnancy and childbirth can significantly be reduced if men act on their roles in enabling their spouses to make the right health decisions at the right time,” the meeting established.
Apparently, many expectant mothers are unable to attend ante-natal clinics during pregnancy. Also, they rarely – if ever – use modern contraceptive methods, and don’t give birth at approved health facilities. “This is basically because they are not supported by their male partners,” said Ms Caroline Mshanga, coordinator of the 5-year Tulonge Afya joint USAID/Tanzania government project “to catalyse adoption of healthier behaviour at the individual, family and community levels”.
This is most unfortunate for Tanzania – although the maternal mortality rate has been falling in recent years. For example, it dropped to 524 deaths in 2017, a 2.78 percent decline from 539 in 2016 – a maternal mortality ratio being the number of women who die from pregnancy-related causes while pregnant (or within 42 days of pregnancy termination) per 100,000 live births.
We agree with the Tulonge Afya recommendation on male spouses being more closely engaged in efforts to drastically reduce maternal deaths in communities.