Amanda Khozi Mukwashi: “We need to shine a spotlight” on roots of gender-based violence

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid and Thursdays in Black ambassador. Photo: Luke Macgregor/Christian Aid

Our series of interviews with Thursdays in Black ambassadors highlights those who are playing a vital role in increasing the impact of our collective call for a world without rape and violence. Amanda Khozi Mukwashi is chief executive of Christian Aid.

What do you see as the main challenges that must be addressed in our collective efforts to overcome sexual and gender-based violence?

Mukwashi: UN data cites, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 243 million women and girls, aged 15-49 had experienced sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner in the past year. Since the pandemic, violence against women, especially domestic violence, has intensified. Often there is a focus on the violence, but not the causes of the violence. As part of the international community, we need to look at women’s experiences, and the full spectrum of their human rights.

Globally, the injustices continue, as the economic systems that are currently in place exploit the poorest in the world. The majority of those who are the poorest are black and brown people, regardless of where they are, and so a more comprehensive approach is needed. Unless we are prepared to address the fundamental linkage between race, poverty, inequality, and violence, we are only scratching the surface of the forms and the causes that produce the violence, and it is there we need to shine a spotlight. Given there are more than 60 million displaced persons globally, I want to raise awareness on the need for protection for internally displaced persons and refugees who are in need of physical protection in their temporary shelters as well as protection from predators. The multiple intersections of violence against women affords exploration of addressing elements of dignity and agency for women who bear burdens of violence and injustice.

What does Thursdays in Black, and being a Thursdays in Black ambassador mean to you?

Mukwashi: I am excited to be a Thursdays in Black ambassador because the collective call for a world without rape and violence is critical and urgent. Almost every day, we wake up to an endless stream of news that causes us to despair. In times of peace and in times of conflict and displacement, women’s bodies all over the world are targeted for violence, as battle grounds and war zones. Thursdays in Black is a megaphone through which women’s voices can be amplified in calling for an end to systemic and structural violence against women.

Becoming a Thursdays in Black ambassador offers me an opportunity to join millions of other women to advocate for women’s personhood to be respected and dignified. I will be working with the campaign to give voice and agency to women in conflict zones or who are on the move subsequent to conflict situations. I will also be using my voice to highlight the intersection between racial and gender injustice.

How is Christian Aid working to overcome gender-based violence?

Mukwashi: Gender discrimination is a fundamental driver and cause of poverty, hence our Global Strategy, Standing Together, declares that gender justice for all is an essential condition for sustainable development globally and locally, and for dignity, equality, and justice for all. At Christian Aid, we are clear that only a more comprehensive and transformative agenda that addresses the root causes of violence can change the experience of women and ultimately sustain peace, and meaningful solutions will be found when there is a willingness to address the causes that produce the vulnerability and exposure to that violence in the first place. In addition, our work evidences people of faith and their institutions can support women by championing peace, gender equality and having a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women. This also means the international faith community must address its failures to act.

Work with faith leaders in Africa, Latin America and Asia seeks to promote progressive gender norms, and challenge harmful practices in faith communities as well as to amplify the voices of historically marginalised women and girls, such as black, indigenous and Dalit women and girls, and address their multiple inequalities. Our work also involves theological reflection and is critical to deconstructing gender stereotypes that limit women’s rights and agency. For example, Christian Aid’s report Of The Same Flesh: Exploring a Theology of Gender, explores how the language of faith and social norms is often key, shaping women’s and men’s expectations of who they should or could be.

What – or who – inspires you to keep up your intensive efforts for justice?

Mukwashi: I believe that we are called to help better our society and environment. We therefore have some responsibility to creating an environment where all can thrive. The many women that I have seen in different countries who are doing their best against the odds, make it impossible for me not to be inspired to keep up intensive efforts for justice. I find Deborah from the book of Judges, a very inspiring figure in more ways than one. She leads Israel to victory and peace for 40 years. She gets her strength and confidence from trusting God. She stands up and speaks out in a very patriarchal society.  There is a reason why the Bible highlights her story and I am grateful for it.

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