Survivors Speak OUT!
By Nebila Abdulmelik
“I was beyond repair. But there is no beyond for God.” Those were the powerful and profound words of one of many survivors who courageously recounted harrowing tales today at a Public Forum on the AU Protocol organized by COVAW-Kenya on behalf of the SOAWR Coalition. The forum was held in Arusha in solidarity with the Africa UNiTE Campaign and in the margins of the Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb.
Over 200 women were in attendance, and the energy in the room was palpatable. Emotions were high as incidences of gender based violence were shared. Many of the incidences resulted in loss of property, loss of rights to inheritance, sexual and gender based acts of violence during post election violence in Kenya, unsafe abortion, and lack of economic clout among many other aspects. Most, if not all of these issues raised are addressed in the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which is why it becomes even more important for African citizens to be aware of it, and to push for its signature, ratification and implementation within their various contexts. Ofcourse laws don’t usually have an immediate effect in terms of practices, as those are too often entrenched in generations and mindsets, however having a legal framework in place is a step in the right direction.
It is worth emphasizing and over-emphasizing that GBV or VAW isn’t simply physical. It is and can be manifested in various other aspects, including emotionally, economically, and politically. Perhaps we focus on the physical because that is the most evident.
Hearing such appalling experiences of VAW brings a human face to campaigns such as UNiTE. It highlights the urgency of zero tolerance, the urgency of NOW. The urgency not only of Speaking OUT and Breaking The Silence, but of taking action. Of each and every one of us taking responsibility; responsibility for the way we raise our sons, the values we instill in our brothers, the way we treat our sisters and our daughters.
Let us UNiTE to bring an end to such a heinous crime until we can say that no man or woman suffers from it. If not us, who? If not now, when?