Today, November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Woman and the beginning of the 16-Day Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign which runs till Human Rights Day on 10 December. This year, the United Nations Secretary General’s UNiTE campaign focuses on PREVENTION and ORANGE is the unifying colour which symbolises a brighter future without violence against women and girls. I have therefore decided to lend my voice to the global movement and campaign for a violent-free world for women and girls of all ages.
Why is this cause important to me, you may want to ask?
It is important to me because l am a woman. Since I share the same gender, it is very likely that I too will share the same fate in a world that permits Gender-Based Violence too exist. So colour me orange if this will add to the million voices of women and girls like me who share similar fate and destiny in the hands those who perpetuate violence against us.
It is important to me because despite living in a civilised society, millions of underaged girls in Africa are getting raped every night in the bid to fulfil their marital duties. Taken out of education, they become the prized possession of their family, hence the family’s ticket out of poverty. At the age when their mates in the West are trying to navigate their way through high school and are either preoccupied about what dress to wear to their prom or the lip gloss and foundation that best suits their skin tones, child-brides are thrust into womanhood and all the responsibilities that comes with it.
Hence, they have no choice but to conceive, carry the pregnancy for nine months and give birth to a mini slightly younger version of themselves. If they are lucky, they will survive pregnancy and child-birth only to go through it all over again in few months time. The unlucky ones are dealt the cruel hand of vesico vaginal fistula (VVF) often caused by prolonged labour and sometimes violent rape. Unable to control their bladder and the passage of urine, they are abandoned, uncared for and left in their stench by the men who once saw them as wives. As if destroying one girl-child’s dream is not enough, onto the next available child-bride the man goes. While his young bride is left broken and her dreams shattered with a future as bleak as ever.
So colour me orange if this will speak to the conscience of policy makers to help garner enough political will to ensure that child rights laws are domesticated and implemented in all states in Nigeria consequently prevailing over the forces of religion, culture and poverty.
Ending Gender-Based Violence is important to me because we still have perverts walking amongst us often disguised in all manner of fashion trends and styles. Don’t be deceived though! They say my gender deserves to be raped because we mean ‘Yes’ when we say ‘No’. They say we dress in short skirts, entice them with our eyes and mannerism and therefore deserve to have our dignity stolen from us in broad day light or in the dark covers of the night leaving us with no power to fight back or claim back what was not theirs to take in the first place. When it is not rape, it is sexual harassment and innuendos, emotional abuse and blackmail, domestic violence as well as harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation and widowhood rites.
This is just a few of the Gender-Based Violence common in the country of my birth, Nigeria. Other violence such as kidnapping, human trafficking for sexual exploitation, domestic slavery and forced labour as well as the Baby Factory menace still rages. It is 589 days today since 273 Nigerian school children were kidnapped while exercising their right to education. The #BringBackourGirls campaign continues to gather momentum while families, well wishers and child rights advocates (at home and abroad) keep hope alive in anticipation of their safe return.
So permit me to drip in the colour ORANGE from head to toe because I need it! My friends need it! My neighbours need it! The girl child being delivered at this very moment and even the one yet to be conceived need it. Every girl and woman across the globe needs it. It is a call, not only for prevention, but also action. Yes, we all need to join the movement – #orangetheworld – to prevent and hopefully end all forms of elimination against women.
For everyone who has joined the movement, I believe we all share a common purpose. It is one that is simple and uncomplicated. It is one that gives us that much-needed reality check anytime we begin to lose touch with reality. It is one that calls for an integrated prevention strategy in five priority areas – changing societal norms, legal and policy reforms, preventing reoccurrence of violence, prosecuting perpetrators and supporting survivors throughout the recovery process for as long as it takes. Without doubt, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to End Gender-Based Violence regardless of how it parades itself in our homes, offices, cultures and society at large.
You therefore have the permission to Colour me ORANGE today, tomorrow and for years to come and do not stop until the end dawns for Gender-Based Violence in our world!