Photo exhibition reviles violence against women

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By Nathan Kiwere | The Independent

Pain, agony, anguish, torment described the recently concluded photo exhibition at the AU Summit and Nommo gallery. If there were ever any observers with misgivings about the ability of a picture to speak a thousand words, as the age-old adage goes, their doubts were assuaged by the power of the black and white pictures that carried heavy emotive messages. Women took turns to echo their displeasure about the vice of violence against women, invoking strong language during the opening of the photo show at Nommo gallery. But did their message capture the attention it deserved?

The exhibition was organized under the auspices of the framework of the Year of Peace and Security (YoPS) in Africa and the the African Union (AU) in partnership with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) during its 15th AU Summit at Munyonyo Resort. It comprised of pictures that aim to raise awareness on the ruthless reality faced by women in armed conflict situations, emphasizing the serious repercussions these women then face in their communities. The display conveyed the message that peace is only possible by ending violence against women and girls. The 30 images composed the five sections of the exhibition, starting with an overview of armed conflict, followed by the various forms of gender based violence and the reasons why women and girls are particularly vulnerable in conflict and post conflict situations. The exhibition also displayed the strategies that have been developed to tackle this issue.

If you are among those that are still indifferent about this thorny issue of violence against women perhaps the following statistics will drive you on your seat’s edge. UNIFEM declares that in spite of inadequate data, it is widely accepted that violence against women is pervasive in all African countries. Millions of women experience violence in the home and in the broader community. Violence against women and girls takes different forms, including physical, sexual, and is exacerbated during conflict situations. It affects women in all stages of their lives – as children and young girls and as adult women and during old age. For instance, in DRC close to 1,100 rapes are being reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day. It is believed that over 200,000 women have suffered from sexual violence since the beginning of the armed conflict. More than 3 million girls in Africa are at risk of female genital mutilation annually. In rural Ethiopia 59 percent of married women have experienced sexual violence by their partner. In Africa, between 16 and 47 percent of girls in primary or secondary school report sexual abuse or harassment from male teachers or classmates. Women make up almost 57 percent of adults living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa, and violence or fear of violence may prevent women from negotiating safe sex and may also deter them from seeking HIV testing. Across Africa women and girls are regularly subjected to sexual harassment, assault and rape in city streets, public transport or in their own homes and neighborhoods. 

The exhibition was on display from 19 to 25 July 2010 in Munyonyo Resort as a side event from the AU Assembly and was opened to the public from 28th-29th July at Nommo gallery, Nakasero. Choosing to use the art of photography as a means to communicate this predicament is yet another moment of triumph for art as a truly universal medium that transcends all factors pertaining to the human race.

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