Africa is making progress in addressing and preventing gender-based violence (GBV), but more work needs to be done, a new report has said.
The report released on Wednesday, March 23, cites female genital mutilation (FGM) among areas countries are making progress in efforts to address them. The authors of the study attribute the gains to the adoption of the multi-sectoral approach (MSA) involving all stakeholders in the development and implementation of programs to protect and promote women’s and girls’ rights.
Challenges such as lack of strong political commitment and limited resources are significantly impacting MSA’s effective implementation, the research, which was commissioned by the rights campaign group, Equality Now, notes.
Equality Now is an international women’s rights organization. It partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Spotlight Initiative on the study.
The report, dubbed ‘Use of the Multi-Sectoral Approach to Ending Gender-Based Violence and Female Genital Mutilation in Africa,’ explores the situation 11 countries where the Spotlight Initiative has been implemented, including Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. They also include Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The Spotlight Initiative is a UN program aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. It is co-funded by the African Union and the European Union.
This report analyzed the diverse experiences of countries and identified good practices and strategies adopted to prevent, address, and eliminate FGM and other forms of GBV. It found that countries that have instigated multi-sectoral coordination have encountered similar challenges hindering its full potential. This includes glaring gaps in countries’ implementation of the MSA, made even more apparent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated and exposed the extent of GBV, the organizations say.
Although there is evidence of positive changes in social norms, a stronger synergy of actions is needed from different sectors over the long term, they add, noting that this requires the holistic application of MSA, bringing together relevant state and non-state actors alongside providing a platform to coordinate the development and implementation of national programs and actions and allocate resources.
According to the report, all the countries examined have integrated GBV and FGM within their national development plans. It however notes that the most effective way to cement the protection of women and girls is to have legislation in place against FGM because this helps accelerate efforts towards eradication, provides recourse and access to justice, and ensures the allocation of adequate funding.
Among the eleven countries featured in the research, only seven have criminalized FGM within their national laws and have therefore allocated budgets for end-FGM programs. Among these there is only one MRU member country – Guinea. The others are Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The authors of the report say all these countries have identified each of the key departments responsible for GBV and FGM, and have nominated gender focal persons to participate in the national coordination mechanisms, which are constituted to bring together state and non-state actors.
However, these gender focal persons did not receive capacity building to enable them to assume their roles effectively, and the coordination mechanisms fell short of fulfilling their mandates due to insufficient funds, a lack of strong leadership and commitment, and weak monitoring.
Asenath Mwithigah, Global Lead for Equality Now’s End Harmful Practices program, says many African countries have made efforts to strengthen their legislation by integrating specific provisions prohibiting GBV and FGM. She however notes that countries with especially high prevalence rates of FGM such as Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Somalia, have still not enacted specific laws prohibiting this harmful practice.
“If we can have the requisite strong political commitment needed to ensure that anti-GBV structures are reflected in laws, policies, budgets, and national development plans, then we can truly eliminate FGM,” she states.
Ms. Mireille Tushiminina, Coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, acknowledged the seven countries with national legislation on FGM but added that there was a need to breathe life into these legislations by infusing nationally representative data on FGM, establishing a national coordination body for FGM programs, and integrating an annual implementation review system for programs to end FGM.
“There are many challenges related to coordination and these are mainly on the functionality. Similarly, the lack of centralized information management systems is a challenge that fails to facilitate the availability of a comprehensive set of data in most of the countries studied. The need for strong political will and commitment as key drivers for the effective use of the MSA towards ending GBV and FGM can therefore not be overemphasized,” says Ms. Tushiminina.