DURING an event to mark this year’s International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC), Sumaiya Sadik Juma (12) a girl with vision impairment from Kisiwandui Inclusive Primary School read a statement containing a message to the audience, activists and the government that girls still face many challenges obstructing their development.
Reading slowly in braille, the young girl informed the gathering that despite efforts by the government and activists they were still facing heinous forms of abuse and violence.
“As we celebrate this day, latest survey indicates that from January to August this year, 838 incidents of abuse have been reported at various police stations in Unguja and Pemba, of which 567 incidents or 68 per cent involve girls who have been raped, defiled, or abducted for sexual purposes,” she read from the statement.
The young Ms Juma said that the reported incidents make it clear that a ‘girl child’ is still unsafe and needs protection from each of us (family, neighbors, and all community members).
The International Day of the Girl Child event here was jointly organized by the SOS children village, Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA), Zanzibar Gender Coalition (ZGC), Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), and Association of Women with Disability Zanzibar (JUWAUZA).
Organizers of the IDGC this year decided to link the celebration with the Ms Salma Saadat from JUWAUZA said the significance of the day is promoting awareness of issues facing girl child such as education, nutrition, child marriage, legal rights and medical care.
“Girls still face with many problems also linked to lack of culture of parents to talk to their daughters and listen to them. We should make our daughters’ and sons friends, they have a lot to share,” Ms Saadat said as she also encouraged girls to aim higher in studies and life because they are capable, and should resist sex relations.
Activists and organizers of the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’ decided to use it as the beginning of the 16-Days of activism which starts on 25 November- International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on 10 December- the Human Rights Day.
Ms Saadat says both the ‘girl child Day’ and the ‘16- Days of activism’ are important events established to help make the world safe for women, girls, and children where they enjoy all their rights and dignity.
She said that Zanzibar government with support from activists has been taking necessary measures such as increased public awareness improve and enforce laws which include court denial of bail for rapist suspects.
Since his inception last year, President Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi has remained in the forefront in the campaign against violence to children and women, appealing to all groups of people to act seriously to end the vice.
Dr Sikujuwa Omar Hamdani, lawyer and activists from the Zanzibar University (ZU) says they are using this year’s ‘Girl Child Day’ and ‘the 16- Days of Activism’ to propose to the government to ‘merge’ all laws regarding abuse and violence against children, girls and women, to have new law with all relevant clauses.
“We are proposing ‘New law’, draft bill for gender based violence/violence Against Child (GBV/VAC) Act. We think, if accepted, the proposed law will help to reduce and end violence in the country,” Ms Hamdani says.
It is proposed in the new law how to address to traditions and practices regarded as harmful or perpetuate domestic violence and gender based violence, and duty to assist and inform victims’ right.
The new law also suggests empowerment and development, gender transformation, gender relations, gender analyses, recording system and management.
The proposed new law also includes guarantee of provision of better essential social services, Police procedure, appeals, obtaining of birth certificate, vaccination, care and protection, assisting or aid devices for people with disability, establishment of anti-gender based violence fund, custody of children, and offences among others.
Ms Asha Aboud from the Association of Non-Governmental Organizations Zanzibar (ANGOZA) and Dr Mzuri Issadirector of TAMWA-Zanzibar say new laws will definitely contribute heavily to the reduction or end violence against children and women.
“Girl Child Day’ and ‘the 16-Days of Activism’ are opportunities for use to increase public awareness and advocate for better laws so that perpetrators of violence have no ‘heaven’ to hind,” Ms Mzuri Issa said. The 2021 International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated under the theme “Digital generation.
Our generation.” It is a call for equal access to the internet and digital devices for girls’ and targeted investments to facilitate opportunities for girls’ to safely and meaningfully access, use, lead and design technology.
It is argued that digital inclusion and literacy open new avenues to learning, earning and leading for girls, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has also deepened the gender divide around connectivity and online safety, with girls facing economic and social barriers to internet and device access.
The global theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which will run from 25 November to 10 December 2021,violence against women now!”
In support of this civil society initiative, the United Nations Secretary-General’s ‘UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE campaign)’ calls for global actions to increase awareness galvanize advocacy efforts, and share knowledge and innovations.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership.
It is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.