News

Saying No: 16 Days Against Gender Violence

2 December 2011
Author: UNFPA
A 16-day international effort to end violence against women and girls started Nov. 25. Here, a girl tends her family's shop in the Philippines. Photo: Joe Penney

Milena left her husband seven years ago after enduring years of physical and emotional violence. She could not take the abuse any longer or the way the rest of her family ignored it and remained silent. Milena lives in Armenia, but her story is universal—as relevant in New York City as it is in a remote village in Zambia.

Today marks the 10th day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an international campaign to call attention to what remains a pervasive and often voiceless problem in communities worldwide. Seven in 10 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to UN country data. This grim reality persists in rich and poor countries alike, in the privacy of homes and in broad daylight.

Feeling the Pain

  • In South Africa, a woman is killed every six hours by an intimate partner.
  • In Switzerland, over 22 per cent of women experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an average of 36 women and girls are raped every day.
  • In the United States, 83 per cent of teenage girls undergo sexual harassment in public schools.

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2010

Today, women and girls around the world will experience beatings, rape, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, trafficking and even murder. It is startling that in the 21st century, with all the technological and societal advances, women in developed and developing countries continue to be stalked by violence in their homes, workplaces and streets. What’s even more shocking is that much of the violence is done by intimate partners and family members.

But women and girls are also standing up against such violence, raising their voices in cities and villages by declaring that the abuse will no longer be tolerated.

UNFPA and its partners are supporting women and girls in eradicating violence through diverse initiatives. In Armenia, for example, UNFPA has been working with churches to help Milena and other women like her to openly address the effects of violence in their homes by talking about the repercussions with their spouses, religious leaders and other family members. These discussions have brought changes, enabling women to speak up more loudly on an issue that was once taboo.

Worldwide, UNFPA works with partners to address the root causes of gender violence and to offer locally appropriate solutions, such as:

  • In Belarus, UNFPA joined forces with celebrities, experts, activists and journalists to launch a wide-reaching media campaign in early 2011 declaring that violence against women is a tool of cowards.
  • In Burundi and Nepal, UNFPA is supporting grassroots women activists in their efforts to build peace and to monitor  gender-based violence.
  • In China and six other Asian countries, UNFPA is involved in research on the causes of gender violence to develop prevention strategies.
  • In Tanzania, UNFPA recently supported the opening of a clinic designed for survivors of gender and child abuse – the first of its kind in the country.
  • UNFPA and UN Women published a report in 2011 on key lessons learned from programs to end violence against women in 10 pilot countries.
  • For the first time ever, Viet Nam participated in the UNiTe to End Violence Against Women campaign, organized by UNFPA Viet Nam (which also produced a video) and other UN agencies, engaging men in discussions about the dynamics and consequences of abuse toward women.

These are just a few of the many ways that UNFPA and its partners are working with women, men, girls and boys to rid homes and communities of gender violence and its long-lasting, damaging effects. In a statement for 16 Days of Activism, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, says that when women are healthy and educated, and can live free from violence and discrimination, they can participate fully in society and accelerate progress on all fronts.

You, too, can stand up and speak out. Learn more at United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. There, you'll find videos about the UN efforts in this international endeavor.

You can also learn about UN Women's social-mobilization campaign, Say No: UNite to End Violence Against Women, which features important links to programmes around the world as well as videos that include one about a truth and reconciliation commission in Morocco that detailed abuse of women opposed to the government.

– RACHEL MURCHISON
 

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