Hundreds of women peacefully marched through the main streets of the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui today to demand for inclusive, violence-free elections.
“All we want is peace,” sang the participants who donned white t-shirts, a symbol of their message for peace. They called for election security and respect for women’s rights; they denounced election-related gender-based violence and urged unity among Central Africans.
Organized by women’s civil society organizations in the Central African Republic (CAR) in partnership with MINUSCA and UN Women on the occasion of Human Rights Day celebrated on 10 December, the “March for Peace” coincided with the closing of this year’s “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” campaign.
“Our voices are louder than your weapons,” chanted the crowd while calling for Central African women and girls to make their voices heard in demanding for peaceful elections. The march sough to highlight the need to protect women from violence – to which they are too often subjected during the electoral period – and raise awareness on the need for women’s meaningful participation in the various stages of the election.
“Peace is a precious thing. It warms my heart to see this assembly of fellow Central Africans who regardless of origin, creed or social standing have gathered to say no to all forms of violence before, during and after the elections, so that our country can continue to develop,” said Adja Naboula, the President of the National Office for Muslim Women in the CAR and a candidate for the legislative elections.
CAR gender activist Lina Ekomo added: “We are in the midst of a sensitive electoral period where we are already witnessing the makings of a potential crisis. We are sending a message to all political actors to say that there is no valid reason for taking up arms.”
She explained that the march also sought to honour the memory of countless Central Africans who “did not survive the crises that we have experienced”. She stressed that dialogue was essential to calm tensions and avoid violence.
Organizers hope the march will shine a light on the respect for human rights, women’s participation in the electoral process and electoral security during the 2020/2021 legislative and presidential elections in the Central African Republic scheduled to start on 27 December.