Nascent Economic Tools to Counter Gender-Based Violence

In most parts of rural Africa, gender-based violence takes many forms, most of them overt, perpetrated almost exclusively against women. These run the gamut from routine physical and psychological abuse to bearing the brunt of the most burdensome tasks in the household. In the absence of legislation to protect them, or the enforcement of such legislation where it does exist, women have been the mostly silent victims of this violence for ages.

Gender-based violence constitutes one of the most widespread human rights abuses and public health problems, especially in the largely neglected rural areas of Africa. It also has devastating long term consequences for victims’ physical and mental health. Simultaneously, the broader social effects of gender-based violence compromise the social development of children in the household, the unity of the family, the social fabric of affected communities, and the well-being of society as a whole.

Governments are legally obligated to address the problem of gender-based violence through a range of measures, including legislation. The most shameful form of gender-based violence is that perpetrated against the helpless and defenseless girl child. It usually masquerades under the guise of ‘tradition’ when pre-pubescent girls are turned into child care-givers, baby-sitters, and excluded from school so that they can fetch water or wood and assist their mothers in the farms while their brothers are treated to the several privileges of being of the other sex.

Our programs, such as the WEAVE program in Zambia, which emphasize the economic independence of women, are intended to empower them to protect themselves, protect their children, give them the necessary leverage to say no, and fight back when the men in their societies will not take ‘no’ for an answer.