Tanzania: Seventeen days campaign against gender violence launched
25 November 2008

Refugee women in Tanzania band together during seventeen days against gender violence campaign. (Kratochivil/JRS)
Despite the progress in this area, there are still too many places in the world, were women are denied access to education and where they are not granted the same rights as men.
Kibono, 25 November, 2008 The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has launched the “16 Days of Activism To End Violence Against Women” campaign with a particular focus on gender-based violence in Kibondo District, northwestern Tanzania. “We want zero sexual and gender based violence, zero discrimination and no tolerance for brutality. To achieve this, men have to support and help women,” Nadjia Hafsa, representative of the UNHCR office in charge said during the opening of the campaign in Nduta refugee camp.

The opening was attended by Camp Commandant Apolinary Kweka, officials from UNHCR, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service (TCRS) as well as by refugees and facilitators working for different agencies.

60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women and children are still the first victims of violence, especially of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Those in conflict and war are the worst affected. The campaign wants to draw particular attention to the situation of women and their rights and want to stress the fact that human rights cannot be universal without women’s rights. Accordingly, “Human rights for Women - Human rights for All” was chosen as the topic. “The campaign we are starting today is not only for women, it is for men. It is you men who first have to fight against violence.” Ms Hafsa said in her opening speech.

Women should speak up against violence

She pointed out that women should not remain silent when they experience aggression but try to fight hostility and brutality by speaking up. For years, the government of Tanzania, UNHCR and many agencies have tried to raise awareness about women’s rights, trying to strengthen this capacity and to empower them. These efforts have helped to reduce violent behaviour in the camps. They have also contributed to women having a better perspective in their future lives. “All women in the camps have the right to decide about their lives and future freely and without pressure and to go back home and start a new life,” Ms Hasfa insisted.

Burundian girls living in the Tanzanian refugee camps were encouraged to return to their country so as to join the schools and enjoy the right of education there. “Without education, there is no way women can stop experiencing brutality and aggression,” Nduta Camp Commandant, Apolinary Kweka said.

Women gaining political ground

IRC Field Coordinator Lara Ho pointed out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to seek asylum, which has been granted to many people from the Great Lakes Region in Tanzania, a country which hosts the largest refugee population in Africa. In the 60 years since the declaration, women have brought about real change through their efforts to challenge gender inequality. “There are now many women who are field officers or clinical officers, even president like in Liberia and in Rwanda nearly 50% of the members of parliament are women,” Ms Ho said. Despite the progress in this area, there are still too many places in the world, were women are denied access to education and where they are not granted the same rights as men.

The “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. Since 1991 over 2000 organisations in about 154 countries have participated in the campaign.

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