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Opinion: International Women's Day is a day of mourning for Africa

   March 8, 2021 10:47 PM
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by DW's Mimi Mefo

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Africa International Women's Day
March 8 marks the UN's International Women's Day — an occasion that is meant to be a global celebration. But with more and more women suffering each day, there is little to rejoice in Africa

International Women's Day should celebrate the fruits of decades of activism. But on a continent where those who stand accused of sexual abuse often get rewarded rather than punished, what is there to be proud of?

The theme for the 2021 International Women's Day celebrations is "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world" — yet I'm having a hard time fully embracing that idea, given the pain and destruction that COVID-19 has caused, especially to women.

Sure, there was a woman instrumental, for example, in developing the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease, and that should indeed be emphasized and even celebrated.

But what about all the women who have lost agency over their own lives not just in these past 12 months but in all the years since we've been celebrating this day?

Violent legacies vs. 'leadership' International Women's Day is unfortunately increasingly becoming a rolling stone that seems to gather no moss.

As I cast my mind back to the euphoria that typically greeted the celebrations on this day in my homeland, Cameroon, I cannot help but recall that this is a country that has 43.2% of its women population facing domestic violence daily, while 39.8% and 14.5% face emotional and sexual violence, respectively.

And with 56.4% of women suffering at least one form of violence in my country, I struggle to find a reason for celebration with or without COVID. What am I to celebrate? As I don't wish to be overly pessimistic, I have been searching for a reason why women in Africa — especially those suffering from sexual violence — should still be celebrating on March 8. What concrete event can we, as women, feel truly proud of?

Unfortunately, skimming through recent history in my mind, I could only come up with one noteworthy event, namely the recent resignation of Zimbabwean Vice President Kembo Mohadi over allegations of moral impropriety. The fact that an African politician would resign over an issue such as sexual misconduct has certainly set a new record for Africa. And one doesn't have to journey back in time too long to understand that this truly is a rarity in Africa.

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