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Natural Disasters: An avenue for increased violence against women and girls. #16daysOfactivism #GBV #VAW #NaturalDisastersandGBV

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Mr. Ajay Madiwale of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation speaking at the 57th session of the commission on the status of women on 11th March 2013 in New York said, and I quote,

While we have paid needed attention to violence in armed conflict, and must continue to do so, the same focus has been lacking in situations of natural disasters. Every year, natural disasters disrupt the lives of more than 200 million people, the majority of them women and girls. Among the often hidden impacts of disaster, is the devastation caused by the gender-based violence that often follows. The evidence shows that in disaster after disaster, violence increases, including domestic and sexual violence. This violence occurs in camps, in shelters, in homes, and on the streets. The effect of such violence is not limited to the devastating physical and mental impact on its victims. Instead, this violence also has social and economic repercussions for individuals, families and the entire affected community. It is not an issue we can afford to overlook. As we face the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters, we need to simultaneously scale up our efforts to prevent violence.”

These are sentiments I share wholly. Earlier this year, on a humanitarian quest and as co-founder of Each 1-Reach 1 a flood relief mobilization campaign, I found myself somewhere down in Chikwawa at one of the camps where the 2015 flood victims sought refuge. Tidzola II Camp, home to about 246 displaced households many of them; women and girls. I couldn’t help by ask myself, what experiences these women and girls go through? Are they not abused in any way? It was a relief to find out that the UN and many various organizations had taken a number of steps towards the elimination of gender based violence (GBV) among the flood victims. We visited one of the tents that was said to be ‘a safe space’ where the women and girls would take time off from the group and enjoy some recreational activities. One of the chiefs we spoke to also assured us that some general sensitization activities were conducted to reduce cases of violence.

Though I did not hear first-hand of any cases of GBV the UN reported one such case (http://www.mw.one.un.org/un-responds-to-gender-based-violence-gbv-in-flood-affected-districts/). They tell a story of Mary, a mother of 11, who was severely beaten by her husband. She is a 3rd wife to her husband, who has several other wives and is currently living with his 7th wife. According to Mary, she was invited by a friend who has a house near Jombo camp to go and eat some food. They were four women eating together but soon after the meal, her husband who was not living with her in the camp suddenly appeared with a knife in his hand and started beating her severely. He accused her of having affairs and sleeping around in the camp. Mary’s screams for help were heard in the camp by a group of young men who were playing football at a nearby school ground. They apprehended her husband but before they could take him away from Mary, he forcefully bashed his head against Mary’s forehead and this caused a very deep cut on her forehead. Mary’s husband was arrested by the Camp Police and taken to the Chikwawa District Police Station where he was kept on remand overnight. Mary was taken to Montfort Catholic Private Hospital where she failed to pay MK 4, 500 ($10) to have her wound sutured and she was only given some pain killers and kept overnight. In the morning she was referred to the Project Hunger Clinic where she received free treatment and was discharged. Mary was later met by the UNFPA gender based violence Coordinator in the camp for counselling and support. By then, her husband had been released because Mary had decided not to press charges. She explained that she made this decision because she is afraid that if he goes to prison he may kill her when he is released.

Ahem!!!!! Your reaction is the same as mine!!

‘Global warming,’ ‘climate change’ and ‘natural disaster’ are ‘terms’ we throw around every day. It is important to take a step forward and realize that the effects of global warming and climate change have increased in frequency and intensity and the effects through various natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods etc. do indeed increase vulnerabilities and give way to increased risks of GBV.

As we commemorate International Day for the elimination of violence against women and girls the need to protect women and girls in situations of natural disaster cannot be overemphasized. The UN and many other organizations should be acclaimed for the job well done in reducing GBV risks and incidents in the camps during the 2015 floods. However, this is something that calls for collective action; WE MUST JOIN HANDS IN COMMITTING TO IDENTIFY, MITIGATE, REDUCE AND EVENTUALLY TERMINATE THE RISK OF ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS IN SITUATIONS OF NATURAL DISASTER.

Decision-makers in government and in humanitarian organizations, as well as donors, need to commit the necessary financial and human resources to prevent and respond to violence in disasters.  Working in partnerships, we can draw on community strengths and capacities, including the engagement of men and boys, to identify, mitigate, and reduce the risk of violence. All actors in a disaster response have a role to play in addressing the problem, and by adopting an evidence-based public health approach, we can monitor, prevent and respond to violence in natural disasters.” –Mr. Ajay Madiwale.

#16daysOfactivism #GBV #VAW #NaturalDisastersandGBV

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1 Comment

  1. […] have written blog posts on a wide variety of subjects (how menstruation matters; maternal health; natural disasters and GBV; normalisation of violence in relationships; and, “Trophy” wives and the […]

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