President Jakaya Kikwete has said time has come for the adoption of concrete actions in the efforts to end violence against women.
The president made the remarks yesterday when flagging off “The Africa UNITE Climb to End Violence against Women and Girls’ in Moshi yesterday, where women from 36 African countries set out to climb to the top of the continent’s highest mountain.
The campaign whose slogan is Climb Up, Speak Out has brought together the women representatives signifying Africa’s commitment to ending violence against women and girls in the continent.
In addressing gender based violence, Kikwete said policies and legal instruments meant very little without commensurate implementation measures and actions.
“Governments have to walk the talk. We must ensure that our actions speak louder than words. It is required of us to adequately reflect on our national plans, programmes and budget measures to promote gender parity and fight against gender based violence,” he stated.
He said Tanzania strongly supports the Secretary General’s Campaign on “Say No - UNiTE to End Violence against Women and Girls.”
“Violence against women is a pervasive scourge which has been with us for ages,” he said, adding that it knows no colour, creed, age, status or nation.
“What brought us here is the fact that we should not allow this cruel and worthless scourge to continue. It is a violation of women’s rights of a very high degree. It demeans their personality and humanity,” he stressed.
The president said violence against women prevents them from enjoying life and above all their fundamental rights and freedoms. It also prevents them from realising their fullest potentials and possible contributions and benefiting equitably from development of their families and societies.
“In many ways violence against women retards their efforts for personal advancement and impedes efforts towards poverty reduction because women’s potential is not utilised optimally,” he said.
He pointed out that violence against women was undermining efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.
“We know for a fact that some African countries will not achieve the MDGs that have key indicators on gender matters and others partly because of gender based violence,” Kikwete said, adding: “The objective of reducing poverty, ending hunger, deprivation and promoting socio-economic development for all peoples on all continents will not be realised if violence against women and girls continues.”
“We cannot achieve our objectives if young girls are being abducted on their way to or from school,” he noted.
The president said in many of the countries girls are forcefully married off at a very tender age, putting them at risk of getting pregnant at too young an age and at risk of contracting HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“Shamefully there are over 14.1 million girls in Sub-Saharan Africa who are child brides, married before the age of 18,” he said.
The president however was pleased that African Heads of State and Government have taken a positive stand by enshrining in Article 4 (L) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union the inclusion of the gender parity principle.
“This provides for a moral obligation for all member states to enshrine this principle in their national constitutions, legislations and socio-economic development policies and programmes,” he said.
He assured the gathering that Tanzania remained committed to the pursuit of gender parity and fighting violence against women.
“We will not falter in this endeavour. I am ready to work with my colleagues in other countries to promote this noble cause in the African continent,” he stressed.
Other measures according to him included, ground breaking Protocol on African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa which was adopted by the African Union on 11 July 2003 at its second summit in Maputo, Mozambique.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to 70 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and wars combined.
WHO said in Sub-Saharan Africa, between 13 per cent and 45 per cent of women suffer assault by their intimate partners during their lifetime and as we speak over 3 million girls are at risk of female genital mutilation.