Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – UN Women has issued a compelling call for sustained, long-term investments to prevent violence against women and girls in Sierra Leone. In a press statement, the organization stressed the need for strategic and enduring financial commitments to address the pervasive issue of violence affecting women and girls globally.
As the world observes the 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women and Girls, spanning from November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10th (Human Rights Day), the campaign aims to mobilize individual and collective efforts to combat and prevent violence against women and girls—an issue affecting one in three women globally.
According to a study by the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa, four out of ten women (40%) in West Africa and nearly six out of nine (65%) in Central Africa fall victim to violence. This grim reality persists as one of the most widespread human rights violations globally, with an estimated one in three women (76 million) experiencing physical and/or sexual violence from intimate partners.
In Sierra Leone, data from the 2019 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) reveals a concerning trend, with 61% of women aged 15-49 having experienced physical violence in their lifetime, marking an increase from the 2013 figures of 56%. The rural prevalence rate stands at 64%, surpassing the urban rate of 57%.
This year’s theme, “UNiTE! Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls,” emphasizes the urgent need for governments, institutions, the private sector, and individual citizens to demonstrate a committed effort to eradicate violence against women and girls.
Despite the escalating rates of violence, only a mere 0.2% of official development assistance is allocated to the prevention of gender-based violence globally. Alarmingly, 25% of countries lack systems to monitor budget allocations promoting gender equality.
Setcheme Jeronime Mongbo, Head of Office at UN Women, Sierra Leone, highlighted the role of the internet as a double-edged sword, serving as both a platform for expression and a vector for abusers targeting women. The Economist Intelligence Unit in 2021 reported that 38% of women have personally experienced online violence, while 85% have witnessed digital violence against other women.
Dr. Maxime Houinato, Regional Director a.i. of UN Women West and Central Africa, stressed, “Violence against women and girls is a real brake on development.” He called on governments, institutions, the private sector, donor communities, and individuals to invest more in women’s empowerment programs and to fund and support women’s organizations dedicated to ending violence against women and girls. Despite being on the frontline of this struggle, women’s rights organizations receive only 5% of official development aid allocated to combat violence against women. The urgent appeal underscores the critical need for comprehensive, sustained action and financial support to eliminate violence against women and girls in Sierra Leone and beyond. MJB/27/11/2023