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African women face two pandemics | Women’s Rights



In the last few months, as the coronavirus has spread across the world, African countries have registered a surge in cases of domestic violence and sexual violence, which has provoked public outrage.

In May, South Sudanese activists protested the gang rape of an eight-year-old girl by three men while holding her mother at gunpoint, in the capital, Juba. The online campaign #SouthSudaneseSurvivor prompted women to share their harrowing experiences to break the silence on sexual abuse and rape culture in their communities both in the country and the diaspora.

Around the same time, in one of his national COVID-19 addresses, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa decried that “the scourge of gender-based violence continues to stalk our country as the men of our country declared war on the women.” Calls to the government-run GBV and femicide command centre had reportedly doubled during the nationwide lockdown.

In early June, Nigerians started the #WeAreTired campaign after two young women, Vera Uwaila Omosuwa, a 22-year-old microbiology student, and 18-year-old Barakat Bello were raped and killed five days apart. Following the online campaign and nationwide protests by women’s rights activists, all 36 Nigerian governors agreed to declare a state of emergency over gender-based violence against women and children. In the same month, Nigerian Popstar D’banj faced allegations of rape and abduction.

In late June, campaigners in Sierra Leone protested the rape and killing of a five-year-old girl, Kadijah Saccoh. In July, Liberian human rights activists called on President George Weah to announce policy responses to the alarming increase in rape.

In Machakos County in Kenya, 3,964 girls became pregnant in five month period to June, , as children stayed at home due to COVID-19 closures. Similar grim trends have been registered in neighbouring Uganda. Most of these cases are a result of statutory rape. The majority of cases of sexual violence are perpetrated by people known to the children, proof that home is hardly a safe place.

African countries are not unique in this pattern of increased gender-based violence during the pandemic. The UN has warned of a “shadow pandemic“, as countries across the world have reported a spike in domestic violence. The reality, however, is that violence against women and girls is hardly a “shadow” pandemic. The term “shadow”  trivialises and minimises the consistent and harrowing violence African women and girls experience on a daily basis. To address violence against women and girls, African governments must first acknowledge its historic existence and tackle it as a matter of national emergency. 

What the present crisis highlights across the African continent is the ineffectiveness of past measures. It seems the little band-aids that existed in normal pre-pandemic times have been ripped off, and the perpetual state of violence that African women experience can no longer be ignored.

No normal times for women’s safety

The gender-based violence pandemic sweeping through Africa today comes on the heels of a series of protests, calls for action from activists and declarations of commitment to eradicating the problem from government officials over the past few years.

In Sierra Leone, President Julius Maada Bio declared a national emergency over sexual violence in February 2019 after hearing the testimony from a five-year-old girl who was paralysed after being raped.

In Sudan, an independent commission was formed in September 2019, to investigate the massacre and mass rape of protesters during a sit-in in Khartoum, demanding the military hand over power after the deposing long-term ruler Omar al-Bashir. The commission is still to release the results of its inquiry.

In South Africa, in 2018, activists presented 24 demands to the government calling for action against Gender-Based Violence. A few months later, in response to these demands, the Presidential Summit Against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide was held, and the presidency expressed its commitment to addressing all of them. But just a year later, the rape and murder of 19-year-old student Uyinene Mrwetyana at a post office sparked mass protests against the lack of progress on eliminating gender-based violence.

In Nigeria, photographer Busola Dakolo’s testimony detailing her rape by the pastor of a large church in Abuja sparked public outcry and precipitated the campaign #ChurchToo to demand accountability from the Church in 2019. The Christian Association of Nigeria pledged to get to the “root of the matter”.

And perhaps even more importantly, across West Africa, in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak of 2013-2015, evidence was collected of a significant increase in sexual and gender-based violence. Yet the local authorities did not take action to put protocols in place to protect women and children.

Why does sexual violence continue to rise?

Rape does not happen in a vacuum. It is part of a continuum of gender-based violence allowed and meted out on women through harmful social and cultural norms embedded in society. Stereotypical gender norms and practices endorsed by patriarchy remain at the root of it.

When it comes to irrevocably and radically shifting societal standards towards humanising women outside violence, most of society remains impervious.

Various actors – from legislators to law enforcement, religious bodies, the media and gatekeepers of culture – have not taken their role as guarantors of the rights of women, girls and minorities seriously.

As Nigerian feminist scholar, Amina Mama, has said, “African ‘liberated’ states have never liberated women. It’s been an edifice of male complicity engaged in pacification forever … colonial, post-colonial, neoliberal, theocratic.”

Survivors often find themselves between a rock and a hard place, between a societal system that silences them and a state that constantly fails to value their lives. Globally, 30 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Women do not always report their experiences of violence because of deep-rooted barriers including “fear of stigma and shame, financial barriers, lack of awareness of available services, fear of revenge, lack of law enforcement action and attitudes surrounding violence as a normal component of life”.

Containing COVID-19 has now become the primary focus of governments, with little attention paid to gender-based violence. State control and militarism have taken centre stage. The solidifying of oppressive state power in a pandemic means a consolidation of patriarchal power and violence at micro- and macro-levels.

Economic pressures have significantly limited alternatives for victims of violence. COVID-19-related restrictions have forced survivors to co-exist with their abusers and justice systems offer little hope for the punishment of perpetrators.

Investment by African governments in state-funded shelters could have created safe spaces for victims of gender-based violence, but that has not happened. Additionally, civic support has been limited by both by restrictions on movement and the lack of capacities in addressing occupational safety and protection in these times.

What COVID-19 response must bring?

Building a post-COVID-19 society that better addresses inequality and provides a better social contract for women is a liberation struggle that requires society-wide commitment. Social and cultural norms that uphold scrutiny and control of women’s sexuality, enable victim-blaming and excuse violence against women must be dismantled.

As Oyeronkee Oyewumi, professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, has argued: “What I see is what I call cultures of impunity that colonisation represented … The colonisers did whatever they wanted, and so they did lay out these institutions that were not responsive to the colonised. As a result, today, we have all sorts of cultures of impunity from the top-down … We must never accept.”

The pandemic has tested the fabric of society as we know it. It has exposed the failures and the unsustainable nature of capitalism. The social-political and economic impact of the health crisis has forced us to re-imagine a just world. As we advocate for that just world, we must, with similar gusto, advocate for a safer world for women.

We must stop interventions that entrench performative male support of gender equality with no shift in how power is held and exercised. Any responses to sexual violence in this pandemic must be mindful of the ways in which societies were already failing women. Therefore, an understanding of systemic inequalities is essential in creating alternatives.

The long-term impact of COVID-19 on women and girls in all their diversities depends on what responses African states and communities put in place regarding gender-based violence. States must acknowledge and link the historical institutionalisation of male dominance to gender-based violence and work towards eliminating the hurdles to women’s right to a dignified life.

Women’s voices must be centred in decision-making both at the national and community level and services – from medical-legal and psychosocial assistance – expedited to mitigate gender-based violence within COVID-19 response plans. A continent-wide response is necessary and urgent.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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