By ANTHONY AWUNOR, Lagos
Non-profit organisation African Women on Board (AWB) has launched a new research project based on its 2020/2021 theme: ‘The Power of Africa’s Female Economy’.
The initiative will begin by focusing on violence, women, and the workplace, a core research project conducted in partnership with Ford Foundation, and go on to explore African Women as Entrepreneurs and African Women as Consumers.
According to the organization, violence against women can take many forms including intimidation, sexual harassment, and online abuse as well as physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence.
There is also a significant gap in understanding the prevalence of such acts particularly in the workplace, as relates to both corporate and non-corporate environments including offices, marketplaces, restaurants, homes, hospitals and online.
Commenting, Olufunke Baruwa, Program Officer Gender, Racial and Ethnic Justice at Ford Foundation, West Africa said “Gender based violence (GBV) especially violence against women and girls (VAWG) is not only widespread but also a major impediment to women and girls’ agency, development and participation within households and societies. In many parts of Nigeria, violence is accepted as a tool for the subordination of women and used as an instrument of control over women’s bodies and lives. This not only degrades women but also impacts on their rights, dignity and wellbeing”.
According to Baruwa, “Major contributing factors to the persisting violence that women and girls, respectively, experience are entrenched social norms and practices, embedded within religion and culture that shape power relations between women and men”.
“These norms and associated values simultaneously affect women and girls’ lives, limit the effective implementation of progressive laws and policies that advance their rights, resulting in negative outcomes, particularly for those in rural areas”, she added.
“Ford Foundation is making a strategic choice to focus on preventing VAWG by investing in programs and organizations addressing social norms that contribute to perpetration and normalization of the problem.”
Turning research into action
AWB will conduct surveys and focus groups, and produce a new podcast featuring transparent accounts from women who have experienced such acts within their working environments. The organisation will also partner with forward-thinking businesses and brands to conduct anonymous employee work experience surveys and gather more granular feedback on the patterns of abuse taking place.
The practical findings from this research will be used to help stakeholders (women, men, workplaces, regulatory bodies, policymakers, etc.) better understand and tackle violence against women, creating policy models that can be applied to workplaces across the continent. A Gender Equality Certification programme, aligned with the United Nations’ SDG 5, Target 2, has also been created to help organisations implement safer working environments, providing assessments, recommendations and trainings for practitioner certification.
Facilitating female growth
AWB is committed to advancing narratives that help improve realities for African women and girls, and this new initiative will also emphasize the crucial role that women play in wider economic growth.
In her remarks, Nkiru Balonwu, Chair, African Women on Board said “The primary goal is to eradicate violence against African women and its detrimental effect on their immediate physical and mental wellbeing”.
“However, the reality is that violence against women is a complex issue often driven by deeply rooted patriarchal biases held by both women and men, sexist barriers, economic hardship, mental instability, and other factors”, Balonwu said.
Speaking further, Balonwu emphasised that “Many women who themselves operate micro, small and medium enterprises for example face domestic violence directly tied to their entrepreneurial pursuits. So the wider goal with this research is to better understand the pre-existing social and psychological factors that go into creating violent workplace environments, and help to facilitate more equal footings where female ambition can more easily translate into career growth”.
The organisation equally urged those who have ever been threatened by a customer at work, experienced physical or online bullying on duty, been chased around a conference table, asked for sexual favours in exchange for a promotion, groped, grabbed or catcalled to get involved with their noble initiatives.
It also called on those who have been subject to one of the many forms of workplace violence that women are still dealing with every day, to get reach out to them.
African Women on Board is an African women led independent non-profit organisation dedicated to reshaping the future for African women and girls globally by mainstreaming their voices and fast tracking their trajectory into the leadership roles of the future.
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