By Alpha Bedoh Kamara
As the world observes International Women’s Day, people around the world are holding fanfares and engaging governments and international agencies to address issues affecting the rights of women worldwide, millions of poor women around the world are watching expectantly what the debates and presentations will come up with to salvage them from the abuses and violations committed against them with immunity.
Women in Africa continue to face varied forms of abuse in their homes, workplaces, schools and colleges, and through ongoing onslaught by Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, and others, who pillage their villages, slaving and raping, and destroying their whole families.
“Boko Haram, Nigeria’s homegrown Islamist insurgency, whose name in Hausa roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden,” has abducted at least 500 women and girls from northern Nigerian since 2009 and has perpetrated numerous human rights abuses against them in captivity. The April 14, 2014 abduction of 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, a rural town in Borno State, focused a much-needed spotlight on this increasing scourge.”(Human Rights Watch).
Throughout Africa, a girl child is a vulnerable person and her predicament continues throughout her adult life because the atmosphere she finds herself into is dictated by norms, cultures, and religious ideologies that look low on the rights of women in society.
Spates of sexual abuse in schools and colleges have been reported and for those who succeeded in beating the odds and find themselves among men in offices often face sexual harassments and violations from their bosses.
“Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age). Of those women, more than 1 in 3—or some 250 million—were married before 15. Child brides are often unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to early pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV” (UN Women).
As the world commemorates the ‘rights of women’, millions are presently crying in silence, being abused by their husbands and family members, while the elders they hope will intervene on their behalf don’t even regard their rights.
Cultures and traditions for centuries have suppressed the rights of women to determine their livelihood and ensure that ‘women listen when men’ determine how their lives must be. Ironically, women have always been at the forefront of nation’s socio-economic development even when they are forced to hide their faces and their mouths closed by traditions and religious views.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Rapelang Rabana of South Africa, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola of Nigeria, Juliana Rotich of Kenya, Semhar Araia of the State of Eritrea, Zainab Hawa Bangura of Sierra Leone, among many other notable women, are contributing to world development and positively impacting in their communities.
However, though these names are of vital importance in inspiring the millions of school-going girls in Africa, the opportunities available for the millions of these girls to achieve great success is minimal considering the level of poverty and cultural atmosphere they find themselves.
The circumstances surrounding most of these girls have made them believe in the status quo, accepting their fate in totality through abuses and violations meted them with impunity. And the perpetrators know that the only way to sustain the status quo is denying them the rights to speak and make decisions in their community.
A key aspect in making the ‘International Women’s Day’ more meaningful is directing the energy in protecting women from abuse and violations through pragmatic and affirmative judicial approaches.
On a good note, some countries in Africa are trying and the lives of women are improving but more needs to be done, especially in Education, healthcare, judiciary and rights to have children.
Africa is unique with beautiful cultures and traditions and could be better if women are protected, educated, and provided with the opportunities to explore and bloom so that they (women) could provide the continent the missing touch to its progress.