We often hear how teaching a girl child benefits a community as girls tend to take what they have learned to their families, communities and the nation at large. But will we truly enjoy the fruits of a girl child’s education if her bright promising future is dimmed by an individual who lacks self-control.

Gender base violence (GBV) is an extreme violation of the human rights of women and girls, but also, it generates huge economic costs for women and families, as well as for communities and societies. Hence this article is aimed at addressing the economic impact of GBV, as it is a liability to the world at large.

An economy is mainly fuelled by its productivity, as it gives us an indication of the growth pace of an economy, particularly its level of spending. Thus the workforce is the backbone of the economy and according the International Labour Organization, the women’s global labour force participation rate in 2018 was 48.5%. In South Africa women represented only 43.8% of total employment in 2018, and 55.2% of women involved in unpaid work.

Evidently, women economic participation is already at a disadvantage, so where do we begin growing the economy if our workforce is constraint by violence? The UN Women reported that 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. The negative impact on women’s participation in education, employment and civic life undermines poverty reduction. It results in lost employment and productivity, and it drains resources from social services, the justice system, health-care agencies and employers.

When a woman experiences gender-based violence it affects her mentally, which deplete her level of competence. In most cases, it causes her to have significantly lower propensities to turn up for work on time, to work productively while at work and to stay in the job. Employers must hire replacement staff to account for absenteeism and face additional search, hiring and retraining costs for replacing employees who are victims of violence.

The reduction in output is even greater because of the economic multiplier effect, whereby it includes the lost savings and spending that is passed on to others to save and spend many times over as money circulates through the economy. The economic cost of lost earnings, lost revenue, lost tax revenue, diverted resources, and opportunity cost should never over looked. In fact the economic impact of gender based violence was estimated at US$1.5 trillion by the UN Women, which is equivalent to approximately 2% of the global gross domestic product (GDP).

Gender-based violence has a crippling impact on the workforce of the economy, it is hindering progression and shutters all the dreams and aspirations of creating a better future. According to an Mckinsey study, we are forfeiting $12 trillion of global growth.  Professor Catharine A. MacKinnon wrote that “sexual abuse is driven by cultures that permit, even encourage, it. It will end with cultures that no longer consider it normal and trivial, even ennobling”.

I’m writing this for you to understand that when the consumer base, purchasing power, and other economic indicators of your economy is low, blame the man on the mirror. Introspect how you are contributing to the well-being of women and girls around you, so that you truly comprehend the seriousness of how mistreating them consequently sets back your economy.

We all need to be conscious of the exponential potential of women empowerment and the thought of lost talent, lost innovations, lost leadership and lost lives should obligate us to change at grassroot level. GBV is not just a social issue, neither is it just a woman issue, it impacts all of us and for us to see change, we need to start with yourselves because a nation is built by individuals. 

[This article is inspired by Uyinene Mrwetyana may her soul rest in peace and her story inspire and evoke change in our nation.]

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