In September, the little district of Zimpeto in the suburbs of Maputo, Mozambique became the capital of African sports for two weeks as host to the 10th All Africa Games. About 5,000 African athletes, almost half of whom were women, came from across the continent to compete in diverse sports. The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign took the opportunity to mobilize them to stand up for women’s rights.
In an Olympic village and selected sports events, the campaign distributed banners, posters, flyers, red cards and T-shirts, reaching nearly 20,000 athletes and spectators. As a symbol for faults in games, the red cards carried messages such as: “having sex with girls under age,” “having sex with a woman against her will even if she is your wife,” ”beating a woman,” and “using status and money to control women.”
Fourteen national teams attended workshops on ending violence against women and girls in specific countries. They provided details on the goals of the UNiTE campaign, encouraged discussions around ending violence, addressed questions and encouraged athletes to pass on the message at home. One suggestion was to include the issue of violence against women and girls in school curricula, so that women and men can start learning about it from an early age.
Caroline, a netball athlete from Zambia, emphasized in one session that there is no difference between men and women. “Ladies in Africa, be strong and fight to end violence,” was her message.
G. K. Simon, a karate coach from Ghana, stated in another gathering, “It’s really painful to hear or see a woman or a girl being raped or abused by a fellow man. We should come together against this violence. So we all play a part to make sure that women in our societies are treated as human beings, just as we as men want to be treated.”