Sunday, December 10, 2017

16 days is here again

Yes it is and now over!  My question to myself when I first heard of this 16 days, why do we need a whole 16 days to celebrate one event?’ all the other events are just one day abi? But I have come to appreciate the importance of this day. 

16 days of activism against Gender based violence is the period between 25th November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women)  to 10th December (Human Rights Day) each year. This period is used to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls across the world.

Facebook recently reminded me of a memory that took place a few years ago. I was privileged to meet with Kofi Annan on one of his private visits to Addis Ababa during my time as a Mo Ibrahim fellow. The interesting part was that I met with him alone in his hotel room. We had an interesting discussion about life and he gave me seriously great advice (some of which I have forgotten… I was too awestruck!). 

This memory is of interest to me because of the on-going Hollywood scandal of powerful men using their power to abuse and rape young women who come to them in lower capacities. I met with a powerful man and he treated me with respect. There was not a moment when I felt abused or objectified.  I left that meeting better than I entered and the memory of the meeting will last a lifetime. Simply priceless.

The continuous mistreatment of colleagues and friends just because they have XX chromosomes, must stop. It is good to know that more women are willing and bold enough to look beyond the stigma and speak out. The hashtag ‘me too’ has been trending for some time now and is, once again, bringing how we treat our women to the table for discussion. A subject that has been taboo for so many years, is being exposed in the most shocking of ways. 

Once again this year, we celebrate 16 days of activism against gender based violence. The statistics are shattering…one out of three? Wow. And we sit idle? Should we accept this? Should any society accept this? There is work to be done and it has to start with you and me and with our sons and our daughters. 

This year, I was privileged to join an event that celebrated the 16 days in a unique way- advocating for the dignity and rights of alleged witches. The advocacy directed at the traditional inherently patriarchal system that perpetrate this out-dated custom and the gatekeepers of the above- chiefs, shrine leaders and local opinion leaders. Not surprisingly, our best advocate was also from the customary system…a traditional chief who is working alongside these alleged witches to ensure their reintegration into their local communities as well as a wider level change of custom as it affects women simply because they are women. 

On that note let me take you to Mozambique on July 11, 2003, the African Union adopted the  Maputo Protocol and this entered into force two years later in 2005. This ground breaking protocol seeks to bring women’s rights issues back on the agenda and specify what African governments will commit. This document has had its fair share of challenges and backlash but it has stood its ground. The most important section to me today is Article 5 which speaks as about the ‘elimination of harmful practices’. This clause (d) of this article is an omnibus clause that enjoins state parties to ‘protect women who are at risk of being subjected to harmful practise or all other forms of violence, abuse and intolerance’. This is in line with Ghana’s Criminal and Other Offences Act which criminalises all harmful offences against women…including trail by ordeal.

I do not think that it is coincidence this years the 16 days period is the same time all these accusations of sexual harassment is coming out…some of them as old as I am. But one thing I am clear, there will come a time, and surely sooner than we expected, when vulnerable women will be protected and not ostracised from their communities because someone had a bad  dream about them; and widows are not beaten to death by sticks and stones due to accusation of witchcraft.

Happy 16!!

Share with me how you spent your 16 days by leaving a comment in this blog or at

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