Restoring Women’s Right to Life of Dignity
Eva Darare Gonche (45) has made an enormous impact on her community through her involvement in many major activities to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In her community, there is a strict cultural bias against girls, especially those who become pregnant out of wedlock.
Pre-marital pregnancy is an intolerable crime that forces girls to be evicted from their homes. The single mothers must often participate in illegal businesses such as brewing local liquors and engaging in prostitution in order to survive. Eva wanted to enact change within her traditional community and hence organized the young, socially excluded mothers. This was a highly difficult task considering the fact that the community has shown complete defiance of government orders and efforts in the matters of violence against women, leading to fears in the poor and discriminated women to even come together and mobilize. She taught them indigenous practices of making handmade products, such as beadwork and basketry, by using locally available materials. Through these goods, the women were able to earn money and were reaccepted into society.
Eva also aspired to help pregnant girls so she gained support from community elders and leaders who agreed that any man who impregnates a girl must give her 70 goats to help her settle down and support herself. The strict community saw a decrease in pregnancies, and children who were born out of wedlock were brought up fairly accepted. It took an immense amount of courage for Eva to challenge traditional cultural practices in her community and not give in to pressure or fear of the consequences that could follow the opposition to established structures and practices. Through innovation and creativity, Eva was able to bring the socially outcast girls back into the community and help them start a decent, legal business. Eva has made a huge difference for hundreds of women in her community and hopefully this influences other nearby communities to adopt similar changes.