violence against women
In 1999, the UN General Assembly declared 25 November as International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. The designation invited governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations to “organize activities designated to raise public awareness.”

On Monday, November 25, 2013, leaders around the world urged a re-commitment for ending violence against women and girls. This year’s theme focused on wearing orange to raise awareness. The ceremony involved commending leaders for their efforts to enact and enforce laws to ultimately help victims of gender-based violence.

One may wonder what kind of violence the day calls for. The gender-based violence takes many forms including physical, psychological, economical, and sexual. UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri described gender-based violence as “a gross human rights violation,” and a “pandemic.” Additionally, Puri points out how it is less safe for women to be in conflict or post-conflict times, than be a soldier, because rape is being used as a war tool. Finally, Puri explains the most common place for a woman to be raped is at home, and often under the veil of a cultural ritual.

A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) reported one in every three women have experienced violence—physical or sexual—from her partner in her lifetime. This shows this is not a regional problem, but a problem women from all over the world are facing. UNAIDS Director of Rights, gender, Prevention and Mobilization, Dr. Mariangela Simao says, “Lots of gender-based violence is sexually related. There is a lot of data right now showing that most of violence against women happens in the context of intimate partner violence—domestic violence. And many times it takes the face of non-consensual sex, which is a polite way to say rape.”

Closely related to sexual violence comes the forced infection of HIV/AIDS. According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, 50 young women are infected with HIV every hour. More than 603 million women live in nations where rape and domestic violence are not legally considered crimes. These facts can be hard to believe, and this is why the UN is calling for action.

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator said, “This is not acceptable: better laws and their enforcement are needed.” The Day also called for education in school that teaches human rights and mutual respect among all people regardless of gender. Leaders urged prevention must address gender inequality as the cause of the violence.

Looking toward ways to end the violence, officials agree empowering women, educating women about their rights will assist in the progress to ending violence. Furthermore, discussion of ending violence against women and girls must include men playing a role to solve the problem as well.

– Laura Reinacher

Sources: The Guardian, All Africa, UN, Voice of America

Typhoon Stirs Risk of Sexual Violence Against Wome
Protecting girls and women during emergencies is an essential part of humanitarian work. However, aid workers neglect protection and instead focus on other tasks such as saving lives, moving trucks, bringing in tents and distributing food. All necessary work, but protection measures also need to be established during emergencies.

Conflicts and natural disasters result in mass displacement, often leading to a breakdown in social structures. Through this breakdown women become more exposed than men to sexual violence.

Typhoon Haiyan has affected millions in the Philippines. According to the United Nations (UN) at least 4,200 people have been killed, 500,000 homes have been damaged, 3 million people have been displaced and a total of 9.8 million people have been affected by the typhoon. These numbers are devastating.

Additionally, thousands of women and girls have also been uniquely affected by this disaster. The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs estimates that 47,600 women between the ages of 15 and 49 affected by Typhoon Haiyan are at risk of sexual violence.

Currently, there is great efforts of protecting women and girls during conflicts. The UK government has especially been acknowledged for their efforts in addressing violence against women. Through The Department for International Development, the UK Government led talks for a new resolution on conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building. The UN Security Council has since passed this resolution. Additionally, through their Foreign and Commonwealth Office an initiative preventing sexual violence was launched in an effort to better prevent and respond to sexual violence during conflicts and prosecute perpetrators.

However, according to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, more attention needs to be given to the practical responses to an emergency in order to protect women and girls.

Mlambo-Ngcuka, along with other aid leaders, suggests instituting several measures to assist the women and girls who are abused in this manner.

1. As refugees, these women and girls do not experience the same level of rights or access to necessary emotional and physical services. Policies need to be implemented that protect these women as refugees.

2. Well lit toilet blocks or water points need to be built close to where people live. As women and girls have higher visibility, the chances of being abused are diminished.

3. Women often look after orphans during a conflict. Resources need to be provided to these women, whose efforts are often overlooked by governments and local leaders.

4.  As sexual violence is prominent, women must have access to appropriate health services such as emergency contraception.

5. Cooking facilities need to be easily accessible, not requiring women to travel long distances into isolated areas in search of firewood.

6. Aid workers need to make sure that women have equal access to food vouchers during distribution. Often times the men get the vouchers, and then women are forced to compromise themselves to get the vouchers they need to provide food for their children.

7. Long-term support in the form of policies and programs is necessary to ensure the rights of these women and girls are upheld.

Lastly, Mlambo-Ngcuka states that the battle of combating violence against women will be won in countries where women engage and confront their governments, and where boys and men are supportive of protecting women.

Caressa Kruth

Sources: The Guardian, NBC World News, IRIN News

Rutgers University’s Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) is conducting a 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign. The campaign runs from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day). They chose these specific days to emphasize the fact that violence against women is a human rights violation. The fact that violence against women is a pervasive problem regardless of nation, culture and the economic status of the country shows that such a persistent occurrence has to be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible.

The 16 Days Campaign focuses on raising awareness of violence against women. On a local scale, Rutgers’ CWGL works to bring awareness and help women in need. On a wider scale, they bring government attention the issue and encourage action on their part to prevent violence against women.

Violence against women is intrinsically linked with poverty. In poorer households, women and men both work to bring home income. If a woman is being abused by a partner, often she is left unable to work to her fullest potential. Additionally, whether they are witnesses or victims of the abuse themselves, children in these homes are affected on physical, emotional, and psychological levels, far into their futures.

Poorer families in developing nations turn to options that often result in violence for their daughters. Young girls and women are sold as servants, forced into prostitution, married young or forced to work in terrible conditions.  Marriages can result in dowry deaths, honor killings or sexual abuse.

The cycle of poverty is such that it is impossible for these women to leave: they work to take care of their families, and often violence is a small price to pay for a family going to sleep with full stomachs. It is for specifically this conundrum that the Rutgers CWGL is seeking to raise awareness. Human rights and global poverty are very deeply connected: where they are both recognized as problems and where there is an attempt to eradicate both of these issues, there lies a bright future.

– Aalekhya Malladi

Sources: Rutgers CGWL, The Guardian, World Bank Blog

Unite to End Violence Against Women UN Program Evo Morales Bolivia
Last week, Bolivian president Evo Morales and a variety of governmental and UN officials met on the Roosevelt Island Soccer Field in New York City to campaign for the UN-based initiative UNiTE to End Violence Against Women. The campaign, which has high international aims, focuses specifically on Latin America and the Caribbean, two regions with abnormally high instances of gender-based crime.

The match had a diverse group of players, influential both on the football field and in the broader context of development: the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nicola Poposki, and two female members of parliament from Norway, Karin Andersen and Lene Vågslid. Diplomats from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Liechtenstein, Austria, and the U.S. rallied on the other side.

In conversation with the UN, Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP director for Latin America, Heraldo Muñoz, explained: “Football is a global passion and a great way to win hearts and minds, conveying the message that ‘real men don’t hit’.”

The larger program beyond the pitch deals mainly with governmental reform. Too often, cases of gender-based violence are overlooked. Instead, the UN urges governments to lead by example, exhibiting solely intolerance in regards to such violence and oppression. Criminals must be punished in order to protect the women and girls of the world.

UN global statistics reveal the urgency of this situation: globally, around 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. Furthermore, statistics show that problematic regions must be addressed. Over half of the countries with the highest rates of female murder are within Latin America and the Caribbean. Tellingly, such statistics exhibit the fatal consequences of tolerance.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon created the “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women” in 2008. The initiative addresses all governments, demanding the implementation of strict laws, action strategies, and overall, a larger systematic address of sexual violence by 2015.

Ultimately, football serves as a common ground between us all. Yet, so should our women and girls—for their futures are ours.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: United Nations, Global Times
Photo: Flickr

According to a new large study of rape and sexual violence, about one out of 10 men in certain parts of Asia have raped a woman who was not their partner. When including wives and girlfriends, the results increased to nearly a quarter of men.

In this new research study, more than 10,000 men in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papa New Guinea were surveyed. Multiple United Nations agencies and Australia, Britain, Norway and Sweden paid for the research. Lacent Global Health Journal published the papers on September 10, 2013. A previous report from the World Health Organization stated that one out of three women worldwide says they have been victim to domestic or sexual violence.

While the word “rape” was not specifically used in questioning for the recent study, the men were asked if they had ever forced sex on an unwilling woman or someone who was too impaired by the influence of drugs or alcohol to consent properly.

Of those who admitted to forcing sex upon a woman, more than 70 percent said it was due to “sexual entitlement” – essentially believing it was their “right” to take advantage of a woman sexually. Almost 60 percent said they were simply bored or wanted to have fun, and nearly 40 percent said it was because they were angry or wanted to punish the woman. Of these numbers, only 23 percent had been imprisoned and only half felt guilty about their actions.

The lowest rates or rape were in Bangladesh and Indonesia, while the highest rates were found in Papua New Guinea. It was concluded that nearly six to eight percent of men raped a woman who wasn’t their partner, while the numbers rose to between 30-57 percent when wives and girlfriends were included. The study showed that poverty or a history of child abuse were contributing factors of the men’s likelihood of violence.

The findings show how common violence against women still remains. The study highlights the necessity of women’s rights campaigns, especially those targeting the sexually abused. Despite the efforts that have been made, it is clear that sexist attitudes among men, specifically in parts of Asia, still exist.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: Yahoo News, CNS News

Nicole Kidman: Ambassador for UNIFEM
Nicole Kidman has a history of being involved in philanthropic endeavors with dual citizenship in the United States and Australia. In January of 2006, Kidman took on the role of goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, also known as UNIFEM, and now called UN Women.

Kidman works primarily towards raising awareness on the infringement of women’s human rights around the world with her main focus on violence against women. According to the UN, violence affects nearly one in three women around the world.

Kidman has been particularly involved in UN Women’s Say NO- Unite to End Violence Against Women Initiative. This initiative has become a global advocacy effort that has galvanized millions on the issue. Additionally, she has worked to make the voices of women survivors of violence heard in the media and has helped to raise funds for programs addressing violence against women.

Kidman’s philanthropic work does not stop with UN Women. She has also done a great deal for UNICEF serving as the UNICEF ambassador for Australia. Kidman has also served as a patron of the Australian Theatre for Young People in Sydney, Australia. Over the past three years, she has also served as an honorary patron of FARA, an organization working to help orphaned children in Africa. In the United States, Kidman has also advocated for women’s cancer research, recently becoming the first chair of the Women’s Health Fund at UCLA.

– Caitlin Zusy
Photo M&C

Women and children make up the majority of people in the world who live on less than $1 a day. Women are often responsible for providing for the family and keeping them healthy, yet, tragically, they often eat last and eat least. However, if this fragile population is given the chance to realize their full potential, they have the power to lift their communities and, indeed, entire countries out of poverty.

Far too often, global decisions about poverty and developing countries are made without accounting for the needs of women and girls. Without the opportunity to learn skills like reading and writing, it is nearly impossible for them to escape the cycle of poverty.

So what’s the solution?

Women Thrive Worldwide believes that the solution lies in raising women’s voices. Their staff works every day to ensure that the United States is investing in women and girls around the world and listening to what they have to say when it comes to making decisions on the global level by working with grassroots women’s organizations from Afghanistan to the Philippines to Zambia as well as dozens of other countries.

Women Thrive Worldwide purports that real change happens when women and girls are at the table and able to talk about what’s most important to them — issues such as freedom from violence, access to a quality education, and economic opportunity to lift their families out of poverty.

The organizations’s goal is to help bring the voices of women and girls around the world into discussions about the policies that impact their lives. Only then can their needs, priorities, and concerns be meaningfully addressed and effective solutions adopted to reduce poverty at the local level.

Katie Brockman

Source: Huffington Post
Photo: Women Thrive

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day deals with ending violence against women. So did the theme in 2009 (“Ending impunity for violence against women and girls”) and in 2007 (“Women and men united to end violence against women in girls”). While International Women’s Day can choose a theme that highlights different issues plaguing women in rural and urban areas, the UN seems to keep going back to violence against women.


Violence against women is still a huge issue across the world and looking at Zimbabwe, how large of an issue it is becomes apparent. In Zimbabwe, women may be faced with abuse from their spouses, family members, and even their children. Reported cases of domestic violence have risen from 1,940 cases in 2008 to 10,351 cases in 2011, according to The number of domestic violence cases in 2012 are said to surpass even that number, showing that domestic violence is not going away and bringing attention to the issue, which the UN’s International Women’s Day is doing, as necessary.

Even though the country has taken great strides to end violence against women, a 2010-2011 Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey shows that 30 percent of women have experienced some form of domestic violence since the age of 15. This violence, most often, comes from the people that women should be able to trust, who are supposed to protect them. Women are asking questions now – “what has to happen for violence against women to end, what are the challenges, who will stand up and look straight in the eyes of perpetrators to say enough is enough?” – and demanding answers.

Women in Zimbabwe are using International Women’s Day to denounce all types of violence against women, and are coming together to demand answers.

– Angela Hooks 

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: AllAfrica

Stopping Violence Against Women Worldwide
In the eighth biannual forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty in Dublin, the focus is being brought to the issue of violence against women and girls in public spaces.

In Dublin, around 600 delegates gathered for the eighth forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty. Over the course of two days, February 20 and 21, leaders from the private sector and civil society met to discuss development challenges and approaches to poverty alleviation. The theme of this year’s conference was Making Cities Smart, Safe and Sustainable. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet delivered the opening remarks and prompted a need to empower women in the pursuit of greater social and economic progress around the world.

“Violence against women in public spaces remains a largely neglected issue, with few laws or policies in place to address it,” Bachelet said.

The Under-Secretary-General advocated greater responses to violence against women. She went on to talk about the Safe Cities Global Programme launched by UN Women and UN-Habitat to address the problem of violence against women. Implemented in Egypt, Rwanda, India, Ecuador, and Papa New Guinea, and many more cities, the Safe Cities program has focused on developing a comprehensive model to prevent forms of violence against women and girls.

In Quito, the public awareness campaign Cartas de Mujeres, or “Letters from Women,” encouraged women to write letters to the city government about their experiences with violence. The 10,000 letters received prompted the amending of the ordinance eliminating violence against women to include violence in open spaces. In Port Moresby, where 55 percent of women market vendors reported experiencing some sort of violence, a market vendor association was organized to voice concerns and work with the government for a safer environment. Mapping technologies are being utilized in Rio de Janeiro to identify safety risks in ten high-risk areas around the city. UN Women is also working with Microsoft to find ways to use mobile technology as a tool to address sexual harassment and violence against women in public spaces.

Bachelet writes that as more women, men and young people voice their concerns, participate in local government, and take action for the safety of women and girls, “change happens.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The GuardianUN Women