By Felister Makandi

On 8th March 2013, the world at large celebrated the International Women’s Day. This is the day set aside to celebrate women and their achievements. It is also a day that the gender agenda gets to be discussed and people are sensitized about the rights and plights of women. The theme for this year was “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against girls and women”. This theme could not have come at a better time especially for Africa. Many countries in Africa have disturbing statics on gender-based violence. One such country is South Africa. In South Africa more than 30% percent of the girls have been raped by the time they are 18 years. Only a quarter of this girls have been raped by someone they did not know as most of rape perpetrators in South Africa are relatives, family friends, teachers and even police officers who have been given the mandate to stop this from happening.

Murder rates in South Africa are equally alarming. The percentage of women killed by intimate partners has increased from 50% to 57% in the last 10 years. In terms of legal frameworks, South Africa is one of the few countries that have enacted laws and policies but unfortunately, the shortcomings arise in implementation and allocation of resources.

In Zimbabwe domestic violence is very high. Recent studies by African studies quarter show that 170 out of 200 Zimbabwean women are survivors of domestic violence. DRCongo is another country in Africa that has high levels of violence against women. It has been named the “rape capital of the world”. UN estimates that in the height of violence in eastern DRC 1,150 women are raped everyday. It is also estimated that 30% of militia are women who have been forced to join the militia as “bush wives” or sex slaves for the militia. In terms of interventions being put in place to stop gender based violence, it is equally disheartening to know that these women are often overlooked in the official programs of disarming and resettling the militia.

In the last decade, some steps have been made in various parts of Africa to end gender-based violence. For instance, in Zimbabwe, the Envision Zimbabwe Women’s Trust,  a partner of peace direct, has put in place a number of projects that involve the village chiefs and heads in influencing conflict resolution strategies. In Egypt, where 83% of women have been exposed to sexual harassment, technology has been embraced as a solution to gender based violence. A tool called the harass map receives reports of sexual violence through text messages. The information is uploaded in a real time map that shows where sexual harassment is happening. This enables the authorities to identify the hotspots. So as other African countries work to eliminate all forms of violence against girls and women perhaps technology is the way to go. Although there is the issue of digital divide, it is time for Africa to explore the options of using modern technology to fight gender based violence, especially with mobile use rating at 68% in Africa in 2012.

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Felister Makandi is an Intern at the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) you can connect with her on twitter @makandigitonga and felistermakandi@yahoo.com

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