Every year, from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th to the 10th of December, which is the International Human Rights Day, a 16 days campaign is carried out against gender-based violence (GBV). The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness on issues of (GBV) which affect women and girls all over the world. The 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign is observed this year under the theme “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape”.
Rape is one of the most despicable ills which continues to persist in our society today. UN Women (2019) describes this unfortunate occurrence as something which destroys bodies and minds and puts peace in jeopardy. Its main victims are women and girls which is why it has often been classified as a gender-based crime which targets vulnerable persons and takes advantage of them in the worst way. For some victims of these acts of rape, the results are STIs and or unwanted pregnancies in addition to trauma which brutally changes their lives forever.
Without a doubt, rape is not only a crime against its victims but also their families and communities which are left with the difficult task of helping them to rebuild their lives. Rape has persisted in most societies because it is rooted in the culture of inequality between men and women, boys and girls. Unfortunately, when this despicable act happens, society mostly blames the victims instead of the perpetrators contributing to the culture of silence which has for many generations developed around the occurrence of rape.
What can we do to strengthen the position of our society against rape and to ensure that we have the capacity to fight against rape?
Education is key in preventing and responding to GBV in the form of rape. To encourage a society without violence is to educate about respect, consent, equality, dignity and most importantly to care for one another. The most important tool to fight against any problem is knowledge. It is imperative to be deliberate about disseminating information and discrediting cultures which allow rape to flourish to save the lives and dignities of many young persons.
This year is the first time SODEI is participating in the 16 days Activism Campaign. The Message SODEI sends out to Youth in Cameroon is this:
- Have respect for one another. Do no harm and allow no harm
- Only yes means yes. Women and girls are persons too
- Everyone is equal before the law and before God
- Treat everyone with dignity
- Do not use someone’s weaknesses against them.
Strength comes from fighting for what is right. SODEI as a youth centered organization aims to empower and contribute to build upstanding members of the “Generation Equality” by educating boys and girls, grooming them to develop zero tolerance for this very harmful act and encourage respect for and towards each other’s personalities and most importantly clear communication. Youths are just as likely to be victims as they are to be perpetrators, so it is imperative to build a generation of responsible youths. The next generation of adults has to be given the tools to rise up to the challenges of the 21st Century by waking them up to the possibilities and potentials which they embody and most importantly teaching them of the errors of the past generations as a matter of inspiration to not repeat errors.
Through art and other educative and innovative activities, SODEI pledges to stand firmly against rape. This has already begun in the course of the LESPLAY (Learn, Speak, Play) Project, which uses art and expression as a means to educate children on GBV with special emphasis on psychological violence and bullying which is common amongst school children. SODEI also joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Human Rights Day by reiterating the importance of respecting and protecting the rights of children and young persons, especially their rights to learn, to equal opportunities and to participate in decision making, suitable for their development as individuals and as members of their society.