"A nation is not defeated until the hearts of its women are on the ground"
In a society where girls and women don’t count; we can watch girls and women being killed, raped, abused and maimed and do nothing. We can watch the devastating consequence of the disillusionment and disempowerment of girls and women, and take no action. We can watch girls and women die of preventable diseases, suffer preventable and treatable trauma and do nothing, but continue with rhetorical musings. We can watch an impending crisis befall a whole segment of the population, and turn the other way.
It is time that this largely ignored segment of the population, take special priority to African governments. African governments can not continue to sweep this huge crisis under the carpet. It is time for girls and women to take special priority in Africa and begin to count; because like Stephen Lewis (U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa), emphasized:
If it can be said, as it can, that by the year 2020, the number of deaths from AIDS in Africa will approximate the number of deaths, military and civilian combined, in both world wars of the 20th century, then it should also be said that a pronounced majority of those deaths will be women and girls. The toll on women and girls is beyond human imagining; it presents Africa and the world with a practical and moral challenge which places gender at the centre of the human condition. The practice of ignoring a gender analysis has turned out to be lethal. . . .For the African continent, it means economic and social survival. For the women and girls of Africa , it's a matter of life or death.
-Stephen Lewis, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa , July 2002.
Reports and accounts emerging out of much of Africa in regards to the plight of girls and women supports the statements above and those made by Stephen Lewis.
On the heels of the impending AIDS crisis, perpetuators of mass rape of girls and women in Liberia have gone without punishment. More alarming, is the fact that a majority of these women have become isolated due to the societal stigma that comes with rape, and the failure of governments to actively seek these women, and attempt to resolve the trauma they face
The lack of societal education about the consequence of violence against women and rape; has led to girls and women feeling ashamed and disempowered, hence they do not press for prosecution or seek treatment after they experience rape.
The move by the Liberian Female lawyers Association (AFEL) to demand for the death penalty or life imprisonment for convicted rapists in Liberia is a strong and positive move in raising awareness of the serious impact of rape on victims. However, it is essential that males, and the society as whole, be educated about the devastating impact of sexual violence and rape on females and on the society.
It is also essential for women in society to be empowered through mass education. There must be equitable representation of women in government.
From time immemorial, African women have suffered the most from the consequences of slavery and Africa's numerous wars. African girls, women and the mothers of the future African generation must be protected to uphold positive sustainable human development in Africa.
For Africa to succeed, African girls and women must count in their societies and in the world, as a whole.
About the author: Ima Myers, is a Mathematician/Computer programmer. She currently resides in Canada.