Girl child protection is essential for a better future

By Felister Peter

There are different known ways that can be used to prevent violence against girls  from happening, because we all have some role to play, and prevention must start early.

The truth is if we empower girls, we automatically support survivors through adequate services so that they can rebuild their lives and stop violence from reoccurring in society, whether in urban or rural areas of our country.

Some media outlets deserve credit because they have shown how survivors in Tanzania are speaking out, turning their lives around, holding perpetrators accountable, and inspiring others to fight against gender-based violence which affects girls, whether in school or not.

TGNP Mtandao Executive Director, Ms Lilian Liundi says that as a society we need to transform the culture by enforcing laws that protect girls’ rights and changing the attitudes that condone violence against them.

She strongly insists that ending violence against women and girls is possible, as there are proven solutions for supporting and empowering survivors to stop the re occurrence of this violence, as it has happened in pastoral communities recently.

In Tanzania today, laws and policies are powerful tools to punish perpetrators, provide justice and services, and end impunity.

There are many ways that we can resist and prevent violent norms, attitudes and behaviour in Tanzania today, that perpetuate violence against women, and everyone has a role to play in this.

While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable—for instance the minorities – women, girls with HIV/Aids, and those living with disabilities.

In some parts of the country like Singida, Manyara and Shinyanga regions, some girls are married before their 18th birthday and this exposes them to different problems related to gender-based violence.

Child marriage is more common in West and Central Africa, where over four in 10 girls were married before the age of 18 years, and about 1 in 7 were married or in union before the age of 15. In some parts of Tanzania, such cases are also very common.

in Tanzania, such marriages often results in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupts schooling, limits the girl’s opportunities and increases her risk of experiencing domestic violence.

Around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives.

By far, the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against girls in Tanzania today are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends.

Available data state that at least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the 30 countries with representative data on prevalence.

In most of these countries, the majority of girls were cut before age 5. Adult women account for 51 per cent of all human trafficking victims detected globally.

Nearly three out of every four trafficked women and girls are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, a situation which calls for action.

It is shocking to learn that an estimated 246 million girls and boys experience school-related violence every year and one in four girls say that they never feel comfortable using school latrines, according to a survey on youth conducted across four regions.

The extent and forms of school-related violence that girls and boys experience differ, but evidence suggests that girls are at greater risk of sexual violence, harassment and exploitation.

In addition to the resulting adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences, school-related gender-based violence is a major obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls.

In some parts of our country, female undergraduate university students have reported having experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct.

There is also a psychological violence defined as remarks, gestures and images of a sexist or humiliating sexual nature made against women or threats and/or mobbing to which they might have been subjected.

Social media is the main channel through which psychological violence is perpetrated where some women have received death, rape, assault or abduction threats towards them or their families.

Among women who do, most look to family and friends and very few look to formal institutions and mechanisms, such as police and health services.

Less than 10 per cent of those women seeking help for experience of violence sought help by appealing to the police. Availability of data on violence against women has increased significantly in recent years.

Since 1995, more than 100 countries have conducted at least one survey addressing the issue and in Tanzania we need to do more about this.

This is because more than 40 countries conducted at least two surveys in the period between 1995 and 2014, which means that, depending on the comparability of the surveys, changes over time could be better be analysed.

Evidence suggests that certain characteristics of women, such as sexual orientation, disability status or ethnicity, and some contextual factors, such as humanitarian crises, including conflict and post-conflict situations, may increase women’s vulnerability to violence.

Girls in some quotas have in the past reported experiencing violence and abuse without a clear point of contact for support. Statistics provided by the World Health Organisation in their factsheet (2017) titled ‘Violence against women’ stated that 1 in 3 women face sexual harassment.

One of the many facts published by the Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls, an initiative of UN Women, states that up to 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.

Considering the fact that we live in a digital world and that children have access to phones right from a very young age, cybercrimes are also a very prominent threat.

With so much violence being perpetrated against children, it’s important to teach the girl child that it is better to be safe than sorry, especially when she is on her own.

Going by the saying ‘parents are the first teachers’, you are the best person to teach your child about personal safety.

It is therefore important to inculcate a sense of awareness right from a very young age and help your child think smart and develop a strong character.