The theme for Thursday’s International Women’s Day is “Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls.” Also, this week, the United Nation’s is launching the Stop Rape Campaign with events in Nairobi, Geneva and New York.
Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda is a regional program director for UNIFEM. From New York, she spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about this year’s theme.
“The issue of violence against women has been with us for a long time. And for our work with the United Nations Fund for Women we see that there’s been tremendous progress around issues of awareness, trying to have some legislation in place. But we still find that the issues of accountability remain. Acts of violence and abuse are committed whether within the schools, within the communities, within situations of war. And you see less and less attention towards dealing with the perpetrators of violence,” she says.
How is impunity ended? Gumbonzvanda says, “First is to send a very strong message that in today’s world women…are saying zero tolerance. A real political message that the women are tired of abuse…that anybody who abuses women sexually, battering and other forms of violence, we are calling on the authorities in the institutions to take practical action to deal with this issue. Therefore the whole issue of enforcement of the existing laws becomes very, very important in addition to ensuring that there is justice.”
Widespread rape has been reported in such places as Darfur and the eastern DRC, where rape has been used as a weapon of war. This will be addressed in the UN’s new Stop Rape Campaign.
“The Stop Rape Campaign is an initiative, which brings together over 10 UN agencies, including the United Nations Fund for Women. And we are mobilizing to work together with the women, the women’s organizations and the institutions, especially in situations of conflict in order to find practical ways in which we continue to raise the issue as an issue of concern…as countries go through their peace negotiations, looking at the situation of Northern Uganda at the moment, that the issue of violence against women has to be high on the agenda of those discussions. And also looking at some of the protection measures which exist in some of the camps (for displaced people),” she says.