To mark International Women’s Month 2013, we invited contributions from a number of influential women from a variety of professional backgrounds, of both African and Non-African descent, and all engaged with the progress of women from the continent around the world. We asked them a series of questions including what more needs to be done to address the challenges facing African women in the 21st century, which women inspire them and what words or quotes motivate them. Seynabou Tall, United Nations Population Fund Technical Expert on Gender for Eastern and Southern Africa, is our third contributor.
"Every woman has the right to live free from the threat of violence"
Across our continent, women are increasingly vital in our economies and societies. In business, in politics and in our communities, women’s voices are louder and influential. This is bringing huge benefits not just for women and girls but for everyone.
But we can’t be complacent. Progress is not uniform. In some areas, the clock is actually being turned back.
We know, there are too many challenges and barriers which prevent Africa harnessing in full the enormous talents and potential of women. None is more widespread, nor its impact more damaging, than the violence too many women face in their daily lives.
Such violence, of course, is not restricted to Africa. It is sadly found in every society. But the murder and gang rape of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in South Africa last month has again underlined the scale of the challenge on this continent.
We cannot afford to ignore the deep rooted culture of silence around violence against women in Africa .Therefore we need to ask challenging questions and revisit cultural norms and customs not to be used as an excuse for behaviour and attitudes which are both totally unacceptable and deeply damaging.
Everyone, wherever they live, has the right to live free from the threat of violence. No one should be allowed to decide on the sexual and reproductive rights of women. These are universal rights.
It is why we must hope that African governments and societies recommit themselves to tackling this dark shadow over our hopes for our continent’s future.
Seynabou Tall is the United Nations Population Fund Technical Expert on Gender for Eastern and Southern Africa