The sun was already setting when Doris and Jen finalized their Maths homework and started following the familiar graveled road to Muchane Village. Being the only girls in their village to go to school, Doris and Jen had to work extra hard to convince their parents that girls could still go to school and be successful. Nonetheless, despite making it to secondary school, the fear of being deprived of the right to education amplified in their hearts as time went by.
Of the 11 villages that made up Nosion province, Muchane was well reputed for its childhood marriage practices that went unchecked for decades. Like sheep waiting to be taken to the butchering house, the two friends frequently got worried whenever they arrived at their village. Agape Secondary School was the only place that hosted their future. As they descended the cliff that led to their homes, Doris gently pressed Jen’s hand as she always does and whispered, “See you tomorrow, in case I don’t come tomorrow, never get discouraged.”
Two weeks have passed since Doris saw an older adult come to her house and have lengthy conversations with her dad. Since then, Doris has been highly scared and alerted. But she was right! As she opened the door, her dad greeted her, introducing the older adult as her husband. Doris’s hands started shaking vigorously in disbelief, and her lips struggled to formulate an audible world. Her 13-year-old mind failed to picture the future with the 53-year-old man introduced to her as the husband.
Can We Eliminate GBV?
Doris’s story resembles thousands of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, violated through early marriage. According to Mwambene (2018), more than 39% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa get married before their 18th birthday. A famous study by Bonner et al. (2021) uncovered that more than 62% of adolescent girls and young women in South Africa undergo depression caused by various factors, including gender-based violence (GBV). In the same vein, the world bank (2019) argues that at least 35% of women globally have experienced either physical or sexual violence from their partners. With all these, it is clear that GBV is a global problem and women are the main victims.
The severity of GBV is mostly over-estimated and ignored, but in a real sense, GBV causes both physical and psychological damages, most of which are irreversible. According to UN Women (2020), more than 87,000 women were intentionally killed, and more than 200 women were sexually violated through female genital mutilation. It remains undeniable that gender-based violence must end.
I know that GBV can be eliminated using different ways; nonetheless, it matters where we start.
Starting at a micro-level is the ultimate way to bring GBV to an end- our families need to be educated on GBV and its severe physical and psychological impacts. Stories such as Doris need to be told to ensure that our families are well versed in the detrimental effects of GBV.
Nonetheless, awareness is not enough! Government policy reforms must be made to ensure that those committing GBV are addressed and bear the maximum consequences of their practices. Our societies need to shift angles through which we look at the practice and consider the mental health impact of GBV.
No one deserves to be violated because of their gender, no inhumane act is justifiable on the grounds of gender. And most importantly, GBV is a double-edged sword. It affects both men and women. Thus, biases should be removed when talking or dealing with GBV cases. It all starts with acknowledging that there is a problem and a need for a solution to combat the problem.
At the Udada Project, we are not merely envisioning a brighter future for Black female youth; we are actively creating it. Join hands with us, and together, we will empower, uplift, and inspire. Welcome to a new era of mental health support. Welcome to Udada.