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Urgent need to break wall of silence surrounding violence against women ActionAid survey reveals

As the globe gears up to commemorate International Women’s Day – the scourge of violence against women still remains.  Despite numerous international and national laws, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread abuses of human rights worldwide. One in five women globally will face rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

Violence against women (VAW) is a violation of women’s fundamental human rights. It is a form of discrimination and is deeply rooted in power imbalances and structural inequality between women and men. The ActionAid survey found that 17.2 per cent of ever partnered women aged 15 and above in Unguja and 35.6 per cent in Pemba stated they had experienced physical violence, according to an ActionAid study released today. 


ActionAid Tanzania’s Country Director, Aida Kiangi, said: Our survey of women in northern Unjuga and Pemba found that 17.5% of women aged 15 and over had experienced in violence in Unjuga. In Pemba the figure was twice that at around 35%.


As we conducted the research for this report, telling the stories, has been an immense challenge. Everywhere we went, women initially denied the existence of violence, and then often as we were about to pack away and move on, the stories would pour out- the rape of a neighbour, the constant beating of a distant cousin by a husband, the emotional abuse of a woman trapped in her own home.  The frustration with the justice system- both informal and formal was evident. As was at times a lack of understanding about police procedures, what constitutes violence against women and why the practice of it is a violation of rights. It has become evident to us that the true figures of violence in these communities remain behind a wall of silence and more work has to been down to break that wall down. ” 


ActionAid’s new report Wall of Silence: A look at violence against women in Northern Zanzibar demonstrates that addressing VAW and breaking through the ‘wall of silence’ requires a two-prong approach. Firstly, community values and attitudes which promote VAW as a community matter rather than a criminal offence and encourage marriage or the payment of compensation must be targeted through legal awareness programmes and the provision of support for survivors of VAW. Secondly, legal institutions and services must be strengthened so that they offer a viable alternative to informal mediation of VAW offences.

This study was supported by a European Union (EU) funded project in the Northern regions of Unguja and Pemba in Zanzibar, which aims to reduce and prevent the incidence of VAW.

Editors' notes

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