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Violence against Women (VAW) causes more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Devastating lives, fracturing communities and stalling development, it takes many forms and occurs in many places – domestic violence in the home, sexual abuse of girls in schools, sexual harassment at work, rape by husbands or strangers, in refugee camps or as a tactic of war.
In Tanzania, approximately 45 per cent of women report having experienced physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime – usually from someone they know very well. The problem may be even more pervasive, as cultural practices and fear of stigmatization exacerbate women’s reluctance to report such violence and heavily influence the way in which law enforcement authorities handle reported cases.
With these facts in mind, the UN Inter Agency Gender Group (IAGG) mobilized UN staff through a 16 Days email marathon, stimulated national debate by running a radio marathon with Choice FM and aimed to eliminate this human scourge by supporting the organization Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), which works to increase women’s access to justice systems.
Moreover, in a country-wide endeavor, the One UN effort gave birth to the ‘Caravan for Change’ – a bus consisting of 25 activists moving around five different regions for eight days, raising awareness about violence against women and encouraging people to speak out. Beginning on 26 November, activities included artist performances, workshops and panel discussions, during which key messages were delivered and people from different walks of life were brought together under the theme ‘Open Up: Scold Violence Against Women, We Are All Responsible!’.
After hundreds of people marched from Mnazi Mmoja to the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam, the Caravan set off for Kilimanjaro, where it attracted the attention of market dwellers in Moshi and the entire community urged the Gender and Children Desk to end violence against women in the region.
Continuing their journey to Singida, the Caravan gained momentum as it was welcomed by nearly 200 people who all took part in awareness-raising activities. By the time the Caravan reached Mwanza, the grassroots movement received overwhelming support from the police – a vital actor in the Effort to end violence against women
Just how vital their role is became uncomfortably clear in Tarime, where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been on the rise in recent years. In order to strengthen a concerted response to FGM, the IAGG extended its support to the Tarime District Council and the Masanga Centre, a school which provides alternative rites of passage, counseling and shelter to girls who have run away from the threat of being mutilated. Bringing together local authorities, traditional leaders and social workers, the Caravan’s activists engaged with the community as a whole through a series of workshops, aimed at understanding why FGM remains so widespread and identifying ways in which it could be replaced by less harmful practices.
When asked about the lasting impact of the Caravan, activist Mwasapi Kihongosi affirmed that “the response of people was overwhelming in every region and people really opened up. Through our dialogue with the community – be it the duty bearers or the rights holders – we really understood some of the challenges related to violence against women and girls in the country, which will enable us to identify sustainable solutions for the future”.
Testifying to their commitment to combat violence against women even after the dust of the 16 Days campaign has long settled, the Caravan’s activists launched a website accompanied by a variety of social media channels, throughout which their fellow Tanzanians will continue to be urged to take action. Funguka!
|Date:||26 November 2012|
|Action Type:||16 Days|
- UN Inter Agency Gender Group (IAGG)
- Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF)