By Martin K. N. Kollie |
The World now has a population of 7.6 billion people on 7 continents. The pursuit of a peaceful and prosperous world has no meaning until violence against women comes to an end. The global quest for genuine development and sustainable democracy would remain an illusion until the gap of inequity and inequality is bridged.
Even as we observe this year’s International Women Day, there are millions of women and girls who remain vulnerable to social, economic, political, psychological and physical abuse. Today, 1 in 5 women has been sexually and physically abused while at least 200 women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation or cutting in 30 countries.
We live in a world where 750 million women alive were married before 18 years old and 250 million of them were married before 15 years old. Is this the world that has promised equal opportunities for all, especially women and girls? It is unimaginable for approximately 15 million women 15–19 years old give birth each year, about 11% births worldwide.
It is painful to celebrate this IWD when 120 million girls have had forced sexual intercourse with husbands, partners or boyfriends while 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experience some form of harassment in public schools. Even while we are celebrating International Women’s Day, approximately 130 million girls are out of school worldwide with over 250,000 rape cases from just 65 countries in 12 months.
There can be no PEACE in the world when 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime. There is still over 60 million girls worldwide who are child brides, married before the age of 18. Even as we speak, there are women in different parts of the world who are being sexually harassed and abused. For instance, a woman is raped in every 15 minutes in India.
As we browse through these scaring and vexing statistics released by UN Women, we must be overly provoked to go beyond words and act to defend our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and nieces. We (men) are more than them in terms global population. Therefore, we can reverse these harsh realities if each one of us decides to take an action to protect women and girls.
Women and girls deserve far better than what they go through every day. Without women, our one world would have been no more. They are our future and pride. They are destiny and hope. We must never abuse them in any form or manner. We must lift them up and give them the space to compete and pursue their dreams. Until this happens, the world stands to risk a lot.
It is not enough to celebrate IWD every year when rape, force marriage, trafficking, child prostitution, teenage pregnancy, female genital mutilation, sexual assault and domestic violence remain prevalent. In our generation, we must find concrete remedy to all forms of violence against women and girls.
For instance, Liberia had 803 rape cases just between January 2015 and March 2016 according to UN Human Rights Office. Liberian men, what are we doing to mitigate this emerging dilemma? What are we doing to protect our women and girls? Eliminating violence against women and girls is essential to promoting peace, safety, harmony and genuine development worldwide. Anything less than this, our generation has failed.
Stand up men and go out there to rescue and inspire a female. Let this year’s IWD be different. Henceforth, all of us have an inescapable responsibility to pledge our ultimate loyalty to womanhood. Until we create a friendly space of equality and equity for women, we have no future as men. Our destiny is tied to the destiny of every woman.
Protecting women’s rights is fundamental to securing a prosperous future. No nation encounters true prosperity when women and girls remain vulnerable to socio-economic peril. There is no developed nation that has succeeded without the protection women’s rights and their full participation in decision-making. The world has no future when women remain vulnerable to all forms of abuse.
It really does not matter where you are, what you have, or who you are before reaching out to woman, but what matters is your selfless demonstration to guarantee better condition for vulnerable women. There are millions of women today living in desperate conditions who are in need of help/assistance. We must go beyond words and romantic speeches on this IWD, and begin to act rapidly to intervene before it gets too late.
All through my life, I have not seen any group of people that are so vulnerable like women and girls. According to history, women and girls have been mostly exposed to countless number of risks and dangers. In some quarters, they are usually seen as non-entities and immaterial characters simply because of their gender or sex.
They are overlooked, marginalized, trafficked, and suppressed every other day around the world as a result of antiquated cultural practices, low self-esteem, poverty, economic inequality, and insufficient opportunities. It is about time we begin to exhibit a strong sense of willingness to rescue all women and girls who are mostly entrapped, abused and harassed by cruel elements.
The need to protect the rights of girls and women is an unavoidable imperative for any productive society. Women and girls are like precious jewels and if we intentionally fail to create the necessary opportunities for them, we hurt ourselves as a nation and harm our future as a people.
I am one of those who strongly believe that women and girls can bring down mountains and transcend valleys. I am one of those who believe that women and girls can perform even better than their male counterparts. I am one of those who believe that women and girls can make the difference by providing great leadership in this age and time. It makes no sense for anyone to underestimate the unparalleled abilities of women and girls.
The endless contribution of women and girls around the world is not only esteemed, but extraordinary.
If this assertion is an unarguable reality, then why must we continue to abuse women and girls? Why must we continue to deny women and girls from accessing equal opportunities? I thought gender equality is the cornerstone for mutual co-existence. I thought justice for rape victims is the basis for global peace and genuine development.
If this is true, state actors must begin to invest more resources in women empowerment and girls’ education. The time to empower all women is now. The world must ensure to achieve PLANET 50-50 by 2030. As a Liberian youth activist, I remain committed to this worthy global campaign. If we truly believe that women have a future, then we cannot be back-benchers. It is time to walk side-side with them into that future we envisage.
We cannot continue to preach the gospel of gender equity and equality through words and rhetoric. It comes with policy measures and implementation. Women and girls must be given a friendly space to compete with their male counterparts. If this is done, Liberia will regain its rightful status among comity of nations. Until we can understand that women and girls have extraordinary abilities to make positive impact in society, our nation stands to risk its destiny.
Have we forgotten about great women and feminists around the world whose legacies are unmatched even today? It is our obligation to always remember the priceless contribution of Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Maggie Andrew Thatcher, Rosa Park, Sojourner Truth, Queen Victoria, and many other feminists who changed the world. Certainly, the enviable marks of these women on mankind will always be cherished even beyond this generation.
On this day in observance of IWD, I want to remember little Angel Togba who was raped and strangulated to death in February 2008 in Liberia. I also want to remember Chibok’s girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014 in Nigeria. It is time to collectively act, respond to and prevent any further violence/abuse against women.
Our pledge to protect women worldwide must now find concrete meaning in this year’s 2018 theme of International Women’s Day “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. Happy IWD to all women.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist, an emerging economist, and a columnist. He is currently a student studying Economics at the University of Liberia. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org