There are many women in my family, each with very strong and often differing opinions. Every year during the holidays, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for being part of a family that embraces me for who I am. I have never been forced to silence my voice, and neither has any other girl or woman in the room.
Unfortunately, girls and women around the world do not share this same feeling of safety. And as I observe UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, I recognize the millions of girls whose safety is limited by this global epidemic.
Measuring developments in reducing violence against women is difficult, and telling stories is a powerful method to increase awareness of the challenges that women face. I hold close to my heart the stories my mother and aunts told me of empowerment and struggle, and my sister and I continue to share these same stories—along with a few of our own—with her daughters. Through storytelling we not only share compelling facts about our family's history, we educate girls and empower them to tell their own stories at home and in the world.
Today, we are at a critical point in the world’s fight to empower girls and women. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals, providing an opportunity to reflect on the progress made, the gaps that remain, and the global efforts that are driving us forward.
Data from No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project provides insights into the scourge of gender-based violence, which knows no geographic, socioeconomic, or cultural boundary. For example, we know that one in three women worldwide face physical or sexual violence, often at the hands of husbands or partners, and wife-beating is still culturally acceptable—even among women. No Ceilings and UNICEF data shows that despite declines, over 130 million girls and women across Africa and the Middle East have experienced forms of female genital mutilation, and it is estimated that if current trends continue, approximately 140 million girls worldwide will become child brides between 2011 and 2020. Trafficking, violence against children, and gender-based violence during or after conflict are also of grave concern.
Enumerators ride motorcycles to create maps of the resources useful for girls in three parishes in uganda. Photo Credit: just like my child foundation
To combat these challenges, many Clinton Global Initiative members are working to end violence against women and ensure that girls and women are supported in reaching their full potential. In Uganda, Just Like My Child Foundation made a 2015 CGI Commitment to Action to implement The Girl Power Project “System in a Box,” which gives girls tools to avoid forced child marriage and early pregnancy, and encourages them to stay in school. This three-year pilot program aims to support 10,000 vulnerable adolescent girls by training female mentors and holding workshops on empowerment, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health. The mentors will lead Girl Power Project Club meetings and support approximately 9,000 younger girls in their school communities.
In Turkey, Doğan Holding made a 2013 commitment to expand their ‘No to Domestic Violence!’ awareness-raising campaign, which uses a domestic hotline to help victims, educate stakeholders, and improve legal frameworks. To date, the hotline has received 40,000 calls from across Turkey and five international locations.
Gender and cultural norms play a strong role in fostering violence against women. MenCare, a global campaign launched through a 2011 commitment coordinated by Promundo, Sonke Gender Justice, and MenEngage Alliance, is working to change gender norms by engaging men in building non-violent relationships and a caring vision of manhood. Watch the video above to learn how this campaign has changed Marcio's life as a father in Brazil. Through work like this, both men and women are able to take responsibility for altering perceptions of violence.
Eradicating gender-based violence will take intensive efforts at all levels, from all sectors, and from within communities. However, change can begin with a simple conversation. I encourage you to tell your story, share statistics from this post and the No Ceilings data, and ensure that boys and men are included in the dialogue too. Together, we can build momentum to end gender-based violence and contribute to the worldwide development and empowerment of girls and women.
Image at top is from a 2013 commitment by United Postcode Lotteries, in partnership with AMREF, Tostan, and Girls Not Brides, to activate and educate communities in East and West Africa to end child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).