Gender-Based Violence in Chad in the face of COVID-19
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a fundamental and omnipresent problem within Chadian communities, and one that is exacerbated during a time of crisis. The data produced by the Demographic and Health Survey with Multiple Indicators in Chad (DHS-MICS) during the 2014-2015 period shows that, in Chad, 23 per cent of girls are married before the age of 15 and 65 per cent before the age of 18; 38 per cent of 15 to 49 year-olds have suffered from female genital mutilations. Moreover, one in three women declare they are a victim of physical violence and 12 per cent of women endure sexual violence every year.
According to Martine Dangar, General Director of the Ministry of the Woman and Childhood Protection, sustainable development cannot be accomplished without the elimination of inequalities between men and women and the promotion of gender equality. She states that gender-based violence questions are at the heart of the Government’s concerns, through a gender policy that wishes to “promote equality between men and women in order to achieve sustainable development”, as included in the five-year plan of 2019-2023 on National Gender Policy. A national forum on GBV was organized in early December 2020 to favor a space for dialogue and sharing of experience in order to contribute to the improvement of the quality of GBV prevention as well as ensure an adequate response for GBV survivors.
The humanitarian community is working to change mindsets and behaviors to solve this problem. NGOs and local and international associations are encouraging people to speak up on this violence and to look for help to put an end to it. These actions are aligned with the efforts of the Chadian Government.
The fight against GBV continues in 2020…
In 2020, 1,948 GBV incidents were reported and documented between January and October in three departments of the Lac province, one department in Moyen-Chari, one in Logone oriental and one in Mandoul, where data collection tools are implemented. Despite health constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic, field actors doubled their efforts in awareness-raising activities for girls, women, boys and men. In total, 604 people, including community activists, community volunteers, local and administrative authorities, teenagers and women, were trained on gender-based violence notions, basic psychosocial support, management of cases and other approaches through different programs (SASA, Girl Shine, EMAP).
Information is transmitted to targeted audiences (young girls and boys, parents) to help them determine which behavior is appropriate in a given situation. This information includes directions on who to turn to in case of either a physical or psychological offence. Other messages are addressed to communities to sensitize them on these topics, and to humanitarian actors so they can relay this information to a wider audience.
…Despite recurrent and new difficulties
Population movements - a major challenge in Chad - increase the risk of sexual gender-based violence (GBSV). Indeed, during forced population movements, the displaced become totally dependent on others for their survival, exposing them to the risks of sexual exploitation and abuse, reported in the same geographical areas as GBV as well as through a complaint mechanism. SGBV affects several sectors: health, dignity, enjoyment of rights and thriving of survivors and their communities. Men and boys are less affected but are not spared: they mostly face psychological violence.
Populations in high-risk environments, such as displacement sites and areas of high poverty levels in the population, are even more affected by movement restrictions that make their already precarious living conditions all the more difficult. Reduced mobility for these populations will likely impede access for women and girls, their husbands or partners, to their usual activities related to informal economy and small trades. Restriction measures can increase the exposure of women and girls to the risk of harassment, sexual violence, early or forced marriage, domestic violence, sexual exploitation or abuse, or even trafficking. Access to services for survivors of SGBV can also be compromised by restrictive sanitary and security measures.
The COVID-19 pandemic can act as an additional factor triggering this violence: stress, slowdown or limitation of activities and movements, as consequences to sanitary and security measures, can make certain people react violently. Moreover, restrictive measures limit access to services and livelihoods, therefore increasing risks of GBV.
In times of health crisis, women and girls can see their responsibilities within the family weighing down on them, notably by taking care of members of their families, sick and/or elderly, therefore exposing themselves to the disease. This risk is accentuated by sociocultural norms dictating that women and girls take on the role of main guardians and caregivers for children or sick members of the household.
Gender-based violence prevention and response must be led in collaboration with political leaders, judiciary systems, health systems, communities and humanitarian partners. The elimination of harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, must be carried out. Promoting the engagement of men and young boys in advancing gender equality is also necessary to end gender-based violence (UNFPA).
A recurrently underfunded cause
Humanitarian actors working on issues related to gender-based violence are facing a chronic underfunding. The UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, has recently reminded that: “The needs of women and girls in humanitarian settings continue to be overlooked and underfunded”.
On 25 November, he released $25 million from the UN’s emergency fund to support women-led organizations that prevent and respond to gender-based violence in humanitarian settings. The funding comes from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), an emergency fund that offers one of the most rapid and effective ways to help people affected by crises.
Chad is not one of the recipient countries of this additional fund since GBV activities are already included in CERF-funded projects in 2020 in Chad. The CERF 2020 underfunded emergencies fund allocated to UNFPA consists in $950,000 towards a project strengthening access to the essential services package for survivors of sexual and sexist violence in the Lac crisis, in the departments of Fouli, Kaya and Mamdi. This project targets 5,600 men, women, boys and girls, and will strengthen capacities and knowledge of these beneficiaries on GBV and SGBV. A US$1 million grant under the CERF Rapid Response 2020 for the Protection sector, also covering GBV, was also allocated to UNHCR for in the Lac area. Orange the world!
The announcement of the global CERF funding was made at the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign against gender-based violence, an international campaign against violence towards women and girls which takes place every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.
The theme of this year’s campaign “Orange the world: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” has led to the implementation of several activities by partners, in N’Djamena and the provinces. At a national level, the theme “Fight against the surge of GBV in the COVID-19 context” was selected.
The national NGO “Voix de la femme”, thanks to European Union funding of €50,000 (more than XAF 32 million), has held the third edition of its campaign on violence against women. The NGO organized informal debates, radio and TV broadcasts, caravans, and most of all the dissemination of judicial instruments for religious and traditional leaders, as well as meetings with women organizations to discuss gender-related questions. These 16 days of activism against early marriage, excision, and inequality of access to education for young girls took place in all 10 districts of N’Djamena and in the Mandoul and Lac provinces. “Today, violence against women and girls is one of most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world in general and in Chad in particular”, declared Amina Tidjani, coordinator of the NGO “Voix de la femme”.
The Chadian association for the family well-being (ASTBEF) organized a press conference on 28 November in N’Djamena to inform of their awareness-raising plan against violence towards women and girls. A campaign directed at traditional and religious authorities, and at civil society started. The population will also be sensitized on sexual reproductive health for teenagers, youths and communities. The N’Djamena office of ASTBEF organized an open-door event on 1 December at its headquarters in the Moursal neighborhood. Four main activities were rolled out that day: awareness-raising on contraceptive methods, voluntary testing, blood donation and a debate-conference.
The international NGO CARE in Chad organized from 7 to 9 December a forum on gender-based violence, at the national house of the woman, in partnership with the Ministry of the Woman and Childhood Protection. This event brought together multiple actors who collaborate on the improvement of the quality of GBV prevention as well as an adequate response to GBV incidents, in accordance with guiding principles, texts and laws in effect in the Republic of Chad. The three-day workshop allowed participants to draft a roadmap to ensure an improved coordination of actions in order to better prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
The international NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC) has started a publication campaign of several brochures consisting of testimonies on the question of gender: GBV survivors, young girls (Girl Shine program), men, couples and IRC staff.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most frequent human rights violations in the world. It knows no borders, whether economic, social or geographic. Globally, it is estimated that one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.