It Is Time To End The Meeting Culture
COVID-19 pandemic period is one that we will reckon with years later after it is gone. We all hope and yearn for the good days we would have taken advantage and make the most of, all the gatherings, the free food, the wedding, the vacations we postponed, the weddings we never attended and the children we never had. But then again, absence makes the heart grow fonder. We now learn to appreciate life; it is short.
At this time, the world has come together to fight COVID-19, health practitioners playing the crucial role, supermarket attendants, waiters and waitresses once viewed as menial jobs are now appreciated, how COVID-19 has made us appreciate the little things. Countries globally are working round the clock to come up with a cure or a vaccine for COVID-19. I applaud all the efforts done by health practitioners and professions that would otherwise stay at home but have to serve the world. Then comes the online meeting, campaigns, debates and workshops. Topics ranging from how to cope during this period, what do to and what not to do, activities that you can engage in.
In the gender world, there has been ongoing discussions and debates on gender issues, creation of awareness and sensitizing mostly on Gender-Based Violence. It is a pity that during this period that all one need is to survive COVID-19, coupled with this, women need ways to survive GBV at work, at home and in public. According to VAWG Helpdesk report, 2020, there is an increase in GBV during COVID-19 period, for the fact that the women are locked at home with their perpetrators coupled with economic and health shocks.
Time and again, I have attended meetings organized by the same women for the same women discussing the same issues over and over again. Calling out the perpetrators who are mostly men yet they are not involved. Year after year, millions of dollars have been set aside for high-level meetings with the hope that we would find a solution to end GBV or VAWG and other obstacles to realizing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. I do recognize that the meetings have led to the development of policies, protocols and laws that cater to women’s needs, but all is not enough. As Benjamin Franklin says by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Now that the meetings cannot physically happen, we have resorted to an online forum, with no difference at all. Calling governments to action, talking about the same old with the same women, it seems like a ‘chama’. The rural and poor women suffer the most, and the fact is that they do not benefit at all from such meetings. There has been an ongoing online campaign to end GBV. Poor and rural women who depend solely on her husband from literally everything to her sanitary towel are the most common victims of GBV. Governments are focusing on ensuring medical care for their citizens and feeding the nation, which is barely enough. None of the governments has put any measures in place that would cater to women and girls facing violence at their homes.
The time we were able to make an impact to these women, we used it to have high-level meetings, now no matter how many meetings we hold to create awareness, the women who need of most barely know of such information. Poor and rural women hardly know any emergency contacts nor health facilities they can visit if they are sexually assaulted, left alone the stigmatization they will face when they do so. The meetings for sure are impactful but on the elite bourgeoisie women.
The reality, though, the rural and poor women are suffering, and no amount of meetings will help them. We need new strategies on how we can reach the rural and poor woman—saving them from the snare of violence.