Curb economic violence which afflicts our women

Hawkers displaying fruits and tomatoes for sale along Haile Selassie Avenue in Nairobi on June 1,2020. Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Economic violence as any act or behaviour which causes economic harm to an individual.
  • Economic violence towards women occurs when a male abuser maintains control of the family finances.

Besides the commonest among the many forms of violence against women and girls, economic violence is prevalent in the third world. The issue is least understood due to a huge data gap, contributing to low levels of awareness.

The European Institute of Gender Equality defines economic violence as any act or behaviour which causes economic harm to an individual. It includes inadequate access to funds and credit; employment, education, agricultural resources; exclusion from financial decision making; and discriminatory traditional laws on succession, property rights, and use of communal land. According to the United Nations Fund for Women (Unifem), economic violence towards women occurs when a male abuser maintains control of the family finances.

Even though the gravity and form of economic violence vary across regions, women and girls are deprived of equal access to economic resources, opportunities, and power across the world. UNFPA found that women are 18 per cent poorer than men. In Kenya, the WHO estimates that 33 per cent of women suffer from economic violence. 

Many women are underpaid for doing work equal to men or used for unpaid work beyond their job description. Some suffer fraud and theft from some men in running their businesses, barred from working by their partners or abandoned without maintenance yet they shoulder the family responsibility.

Economic violence continues to push women into poverty and compromises their educational attainment, consequently resulting in diminished developmental opportunities for women. This is despite several relevant laws and policies and financial empowerment funds. Besides, Kenya is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw). 

Unequal gender norms

Equal opportunities for women and men to generate and manage income is key to realising women’s rights and agrees with the Unicef that it enhances their development, self-esteem and influence.

First, devise a multi-strategy intervention that promotes equity between women and men, provide economic opportunities for women, advocates for women’s rights, changing retrogressive beliefs and attitudes that culture exploitation. Secondly, laws and policies related to labour and property must be enforced, and their implementation improved.

The government should implement prevention measures and interventions such as psycho-social support for survivors; economic and social empowerment programmes; and cash transfers. It should also enhance advocacy and capacity building for law enforcement agencies and institutions that implement the GBV policy. Women and girls should also know their right to be free of violence, including where and how to report violations.

Apply community mobilisation interventions to change unequal gender norms that promote economic violence against women; and sensitise the community leadership, men and boys on women’s rights as ending GBV is everyone’s responsibility.

Dr Oloo (PhD), French African Laureate 2021 and Civil Society Lawyer (R-U) of the Year 2021, is the CEO of EACHRights.

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