By Foday Moriba Conteh
As the 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women and Girls Campaign commences, UN Women urges substantial and sustained investments to combat the pervasive issue of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Sierra Leone. This campaign, observed since November 25th, 1991, seeks to rally support for ending this global scourge, which affects one in three women worldwide.
Statistics reveal alarming rates of violence, with four out of ten women in West Africa and nearly six out of nine in Central Africa suffering from violence. A recent DHS 2019 survey in Sierra Leone shows a troubling increase in physical violence against women, with 61% experiencing it in their lifetime and 43% in the preceding 12 months, a marked rise from 2013 figures.
Under the theme: “UNiTE! Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls,” this year’s campaign, supported by the UN Secretary-General, emphasizes the need for collective commitment from Governments, institutions, the private sector and individuals to eliminate violence against women. Despite this urgency, only 0.2% of development assistance is dedicated to gender-based violence prevention and a quarter of countries lack proper budget monitoring for gender equality.
Setcheme Jeronime Mongbo, Head of Office at UN Women Sierra Leone, highlighted the dual nature of the internet as both a platform for expression and a breeding ground for abuse against women. The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that 38% of women have faced online violence, while 85% have witnessed digital violence against others.
Dr. Maxime Houinato, UN Women Regional Director for West and Central Africa, emphasized the critical need for increased investment in women’s empowerment programs and organizations to curb violence against women. Despite their pivotal role in this fight, women’s rights organizations receive a mere 5% of aid for combating violence against women.
Sierra Leone has made strides in legislating against gender-based violence, passing significant acts such as the Gender Justice Acts, Sexual Offences Act, and the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act. UN Women calls on the government and women’s rights organizations to collaborate in creating a safer, more equitable society for women and girls.
In a world where gender equality and violence prevention remain pressing, UN Women stresses the importance of recognizing and investing in the unwavering efforts of women’s organizations.