On 31st July 2020, women from the African continent joined in celebrating the 58th Pan African Women’s Day commemorating the first Pan African women’s conference that was held in Dar es salaam in 1962.
This year, however, in the era of Covid-19 which has birthed lockdowns, curfews and social distancing rules, most of the events were held online but a few like the one held here in Kenya at Olympic Primary School Kibera, Nairobi, happened in real time.
The event was organized by Women in Social justice centers, Grassroots Women Initiative, Ukombozi Library, the Revolutionary Socialist League among other feminists. This year’s theme was – Building Pan African Unity for Power, Radical Change and Ecological Justice.
The Pan African Women’s Day was established for the recognition and affirmation of women’s role in political freedom organizing and to advance the status of African women.
This day came after a two-week black and white photo challenge, #challengeAccepted on social media aimed at raising awareness of the staggering rates of Femicide in Turkey. However, its obvious that there are many other reasons why women were doing the challenge.
Women in Turkey wake up to black and white images of murdered women in their country. This time it was one 27-year-old Pinar Gultekin who was battered and murdered to be found later in the streets. The challenge had reached over 53,000,000 Instagram posts by 1st August, according to Indian Times.
And here in Africa, the day comes during the shadow pandemic amidst Covid-19 which has seen a shocking rise in sexual assault and domestic violence among young girls and women.
In Kenya, the number of defiled schoolgirls is evidenced by the high rates of teenage pregnancies around the country. Earlier this year, a media report confirmed that more than 150, 000 girls from age 19 and below had been ‘impregnated.’ The ages of these girls go as low as 10 years- and that is just according to the report.
South Africa has seen more than twenty-one women and children murdered in the recent weeks with more bodies found as the weeks progress. A CGTN article revealed that 51% of women in S.A experience intimate partner violence and estimated that a woman in killed every three hours.
A notable case in SA is that of 28-year-old Tshegofasto Pule who was murdered while eight months pregnant early June this year. Pule’s body was found hanging from a tree with chest stab wounds.
Protests broke out in Nigeria over the rape and murder of young girls and women in the country. The case of 22-year-old Omozuwa who was raped and murdered inside a church was just one of the reasons why these Nigerian women broke lockdown and social distancing rules. Another disgusting case was the gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl by 11 adult men in May.
In mid-June this year, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called on African countries to protect women from the rising sexual and gender-based violence after multiple reports citing the lived realities of women in lockdown.
According to studies, African states have the highest rates of child sexual abuse and follow Asia and the middle East in the killing of women especially by intimate partners.
This last decade, from 2010- 2020, marks the ‘African Women’s Decade’ which should have made major milestones in gender equality and women empowerment. However, there remains much to be done in achieving these ambitious while very crucial goals for the African women.
We still have a long way to go. We need to abolish some harmful cultures and traditions that are still with us and that continue to undermine women’s progress. These cultures perpetrated by Patriarchy and capitalism like FGM, wife beating, the killing of women, the rampant defilement and rape of young girls and women, bride prize- they must go!
This day is important for all women to acknowledge and celebrate because it represents the resilience of the women who fought for us to have a voice in this society. It’s because of those women that I can write this article. It’s because of those women that women were able to go to school. It’s because of those women that we participate and are represented in the societal processes of Africa. Thus, it remains upon us to continue laying the foundations for which the next generation of women will break this glass ceiling.