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Women’s Rights are also Human Rights: Orange Your Neighbourhood and UNiTE to End Violence against Women

Anna XoyaneThe UN Human Rights entities have noted that violence against women and girls has become a global crisis and an obstacle to development, and therefore critical attention of policy makers and global actors is needed. Over the past two decades, the commemoration of human rights day continued to draw international attention to violence against women and children as a violation of their human rights and an obstruction to the aspirations stipulated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Hence the annual international observation of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25th November -10 December, were popularized.

In 2014 these two campaigns were covered under the 2008 initiative of the UN General-Secretary (UNSG) called UNiTE to End Violence against Women, themed "Orange Your Neighbourhood". The aim was to promote global partnership and cooperation among UN Member States, donors, civil societies and local communities in formulating and enforcing critical measures to end violence against women and children, according to UN Women.

The Human Rights Day, observed on 10 December every year since 1950, marked the 66th anniversary, in 2014, of the existence of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. This declaration has become the most influential landmark globally upon which multiple programmes on women and human rights were founded such as: Four World Conferences on Women (1975 in Mexico, Copenhagen in 1980, Nairobi in 1985 and Beijing in 1995); the South Africa Domestic Violence Act of 1998; MDGs and UNSCR 1325 in 2000; Protocol on the rights of Women in Africa in 2003 and UN Women body in 2010.

However, for the past decades to date, the violation of women's human rights remains a critical concern. The right to life, movement, expression, health, education and food security for most women in rural/urban African countries remain threatened by violence, armed conflicts, genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS, Ebola and early/forced//child marriages. UN Women wrote "according to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 140 million women and girls are living with the consequences of circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), around the world, most of them in Africa. FGM is also "often linked to early marriage and the end of a girl's education".1

Furthermore, the UN Women report on Human Rights of Women worldwide revealed that a) in more than 60 countries women are denied citizenship rights b) women continue to earn 10/30% less than men c) same sex marriage is criminalized in 77 countries, 37 in African countries d) 60% of women lack basic education e) 1 in 3 women have experience sexual violence f) more than 140 million married women have unmet needs for family planning g) women occupy 21.8% parliamentary seats.2 This indicates a serious need for UN and global actors to reconsider the practice of adopting human rights instruments with reservations.

The Common African Position on the post-2015 development framework, UN Women, Beijing+20 regional/global reviews and the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women should have one voice in calling for strong gender equality policy reforms and implementation of critical mechanisms to enhance consistency among UN Member States. Policy makers, civil societies and governments should consider adopting a bottom-up approach that will be embedded on the needs of the people and their basic human rights. This could be done through regular consultations to promote accountability and transparency. UN, AU and EU should also capacitate Member States with human and financial resources to address the persistent structural challenges of gender inequality.

1 UN Women (2014), "Escaping the scourge of female genital mutilation in Tanzania: a Maasai girls' school provides scholarships for those at risk, available at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2012/11/escaping-the-scourge-of-female-genital-mutilation-in-tanzania-a-maasai-girls-school-provides-schol 
2 UN Women (2014), "Human Rights of Women – CEDAW: The Women's Bill of Rights, available at: http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/infographic/human-rights 

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