25 November - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. But how much do you actually know about this issue? 

How much do you know about violence against women?

Violence against women is acknowledged by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of 1993 as a serious violation of fundamental human rights. It includes physical and sexual violence, as well as economic, psychological and emotional abuse. According to the World health organization (WHO) 1 in 3 women (35%) worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse. Some studies indicate that the number is much higher, at 70%. All these numbers are chilling. They represent the struggles, most often silent, of our colleagues, our neighbors, our sisters, our mothers, us. It is often hard for victims to speak up, because even in western society, in the 21st century, we can still see victim blaming and finger pointing, that leaves girls feeling alone, with a sense of shame and guilt. 

The terrible psychological consequence - they are twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety, suicide attempts and other mental health issues. Violence against women negatively affects the victim’s families (especially children, who can develop a range of emotional and behavioral problems) and society as a whole, not only by generating great costs in healthcare, lower productivity and legal expenses, but also by lowering moral, which is arguably worse.

But if we break it down - violence against women is mainly an expression of power inequalities between women and men. We aren’t only talking about remote African villages, where women are being mutilated every day or countries where religion and culture suggest that women are inferior to men. We are also referring to “1st world” and “progressive” countries, where people like to believe that society has already achieved equality, but the numbers show a different truth. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, Europe has an average Gender Equality Index of 66 (1 being total inequality and 100 being total equality). This score indicates that even though we have come a long way, we are still quite far from achieving actual equality. 

Many believe that the key to eradicating violence against women is fighting for equality of the sexes in all aspects, from working to eliminate (or at the very least reduce) the gender segregation in the labor market, which creates differences in pay, higher risk of poverty and lower economic independence for women, to focusing on prevention by educating children from an early age about gender equality. 

So what is actually being done? 

Since 2015, SCI has worked on the topic of gender equality through SCI informal working group called Gender Blenders. The Gender Blender group was created out of the No More War team out of a discussion connecting gender violence and war. Since then the group has implemented: workshops within their branches (on  workcamps, with the staff or the volunteers of their branches, in the preparation training of volunteers going to workcamps, in Europe and in Asia), hosted two specific international events (in Catalunya and Hungary), ran regular Gender theatre workshops, designed educational material (games, self evaluation of organisations, etc.), created a photo exhibition and more. 

Bigger organisations like UN Women are working with Governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations and other institutions to advocate for ending violence, increase awareness of the causes and consequences of violence and build capacity of partners to prevent and respond to violence. They also promote the need for changing norms and behaviour of men and boys, and advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.*

What can you do?

SCI Belgium is sending volunteers to Uganda, where women are very vulnerable and far less independent than men. Volunteers work with locals by raising awareness about gender inequalities, organising ateliers, debates and having meetings with students in local schools. You can find current vacancies and other workcamps on related themes on the Workcamp webpage. 

As a part of their Raising Peace campaign, CCIVS have created a toolkit on working on gender human rights that can be used in workshops that tackle the issues of gender stereotypes, which are in the core of gender inequality. 

You can join the  16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign that is taking place between 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and 10 December, Human Rights Day. “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls” reinforces the UNiTE Campaign’s commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world, while reaching the most underserved and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, amongst others, first.

Even if you are not an active volunteer, you can still have a positive influence on the issue by educating yourself and others about gender inequalities and about gender-based violence that is so often unreported. You can offer your support to victims and give them a voice, when they need one. Together we can make a difference! 

Written by Elisaveta Abazova

*source: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women


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