Violence against women and the link to the economy

A recently released Commonwealth report revealed that violence against women and girls in Lesotho cost the country more than $113 million (about 1.9 billion Lesotho loti) a year.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “This report proves once again that ending violence against women and girls is not only the right thing to do but it is also the smart thing to do and beneficial to us all. 

Tackling this issue will prevent immense pain and suffering for individuals and communities and will also end the damage this violence does to our economies and prosperity.

“As the first report of its kind to focus on Lesotho in this way, our intention is that it should provide the basis for designing more clearly focused national policies and programs, and help ensure that adequate resources are allocated for priorities such as training service providers.

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“The findings put a price tag on the endemic scourge of gender-based violence and demonstrate that the consequences of ignoring the problem are far higher than the cost of taking preventative and remedial action.

“By providing the baseline for a series of periodic costing studies and practical intervention, we hope the report will help pave the way towards significant progress on eliminating violence against women and girls, thereby saving many lives.”

The United Nations, during the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) noted that Annual costs of intimate partner violence were calculated at $5.8 billion in the United States of America and $1.16 billion in Canada. 

In Australia, violence against women and children costs an estimated $11.38 billion per year. Domestic violence alone costs approximately $32.9 billion in England and Wales.

Closer to home, In Uganda, about nine percent of violent incidents forced women to lose time from paid work, amounting to approximately 11 days a year, equivalent to half a month’s salary, affecting not only the incumbent person but her family and dependents, the report claimed. 

Globally, these violent incidents cost an equivalent of the entire economy of Canada, a worrying statistic.

Women and girls in Kenya are not spared as well, as government reports that 45 pc of women and girls have experienced physical violence and 14 pc have experienced sexual violence, and these are only the reported cases. 

The Covid-19 lockdown further exacerbated this mess, as most of the perpetrators are close relatives. The violence costs us between one and four percent of our Gross Domestic Product.

Research shows that most of the Kenyan women who experience violence tend to be involved in casual labour, and every violent incident occurring causes them to lose paid workdays, affecting them and their dependents.

Women who are in higher income brackets suffer less violence as their financial independence allows them to leave such situations.

When a woman or girl experiences violence, she, directly and indirectly, incurs various costs such as physical and mental healthcare, legal services, lost wages, lost productivity, and potential, all of which are an economic loss to society as a whole. 

As more people are avoiding health centers and other enclosed spaces in efforts to avoid contracting coronavirus, victims of violence are suffering in silence and not getting the help they need. 

Prevention and treatment of violence against women and girls should be given an essential service status, as they form the backbone of our economy, and as it has been established, the pandemic is not just a public health matter, but an economic one as well.

Prevention is always better than a cure. The costs incurred, the time and potential loss could all go towards development purposes. When women are empowered, the whole society benefits.

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