I listened to a fascinating discussion on the proactive strategies countries are using to confront the issue of violence against women and girls. Representatives from Ghana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe described different mechanisms in their respective countries currently in place to prevent and address gender-based violence. Intervention plans such as clear and effective government policies, the implementation of community forums and response systems, and creating dialogue among different groups is a step toward uniting key stakeholders and developing sustainable solutions. The Ghanaian speaker highlighted her nation’s efforts at educating men, women, boys, and girls through school programs (such as anti-domestic violence clubs), utilizing media to raise awareness, and foster community activism and outreach. I was really interested in how they are using popular musicians to educate others through songs. It seems like another creative way to connect this issue to young people in society.
The discussion also focused on the topic of culture and its particular impact on the elimination and prevention of violence against women. The representative from South Africa, who was moderating the conversation, spoke about efforts in her country to engage traditional leaders with regard to gender specific cultural practices that negatively affect women. She reiterated the need to reinforce positive cultural practices that teach respect and dignity for all. Many of the speakers, including one from Zimbabwe, discussed the need for a regional and/or international conference on this topic. This would be an opportunity for individuals and groups to share experiences and strategies across national contexts. It reminded me of the importance of creating meaningful partnerships to solve common issues. Reliable funding was mentioned as well. Efforts to eliminate and prevent gender-based violence must be adequately supported. Some of the speakers talked about the development of men’s organizations and the role they can play in educating young boys. Creating dialogue (among families, communities, and local/national/international actors) and relevant action will contribute to real progress in this area.
I was definitely inspired by the work being done in each of these countries (with much more to be done). As a high school humanities teacher, I am looking forward to presenting this issue (and discussion) to my students. It will be very interesting for them to examine what is being done (especially in rural areas) to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls, the challenges that exist, and how they can actively contribute or participate in transformative and meaningful ways!