Eradicating Violence Against Women in Schools
It’s simple: violence against women exists in various personal and professional settings.  One in three women throughout the world will experience some sort of sexual violence in their lifetime.  It is an epidemic.  Such violence not only creates physical and emotional scars, but it impedes all forms of progress.  It keeps women from being equal participants in the workforce, and as a result, nations that do little to curtail violence against women are losing about $5 billion per year in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

This gendered violence is seen even greater in school settings, where gender discrimination leads young women to perform poorly or even drop out of school.  This leaves many young girls illiterate and impoverished.  Known to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative as “School-related gender-based violence” (SRBGV,) this form of violence against women affects millions of female students worldwide.  Such violence goes far beyond just physical violence, but includes all forms of gender bullying, and verbal harassment as well.

The U.N. recognizes the importance of eradicating violence against women in schools.  Partnering with Education International and the Global Education First Initiative, the U.N. Girls’ Education Initiative announced a Joint Statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25.  The Statement sees SRGBV as a “serious obstacle” to the U.N.’s Education for All and Millennium Development Goals.

“Too often, SRGBV remains undetected, unreported, and even overlooked in school, the very social institution where children are expected to be safe, protected, and empowered,” reads the U.N.’s joint statement. “Yet teachers, schools, and education systems are also fundamental in transforming practices, attitudes, and values.  Quality education for all can only be realized in safe and supportive learning environments.”

Addressing violence against women in school settings must be a priority for any global education initiative.  The U.N.’s joint statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is hopefully an effective step in stopping this epidemic.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, Think Progress, Thomas Reuters Initiative
Photo: Vintage 3D

In the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon, “Violence against women continues to persist as one of the most heinous, systematic and prevalent human rights abuses in the world. It is a threat to all women, and an obstacle to all our efforts for development, peace, and gender equality in all societies.”

In fact, violence kills more women between the ages of 15 and 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

The recent 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, kicked off November 25 on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, served to confront this global pandemic. Here are ten of countless statistics that illustrate the importance of such, and continued, efforts.

1. In the 24 developing countries studied in a recent survey, a combined total of only 7% of survivors of gender-based violence, including physical and sexual acts, formally reported their attacks to police, medical or social services.

2. In India, less than 1% of survivors reported gender-based violence to formal sources. The highest rate of reporting uncovered in the survey was in Colombia where 26% of women formally reported the violence they faced. This still means that three out of four Colombian women never report the violence they’ve faced.

3. In the same 24 developing countries, the surveyors explored whether women told their friends, family members or neighbors about their attacks and found that the rates of this “informal reporting” ranged from 15% in Honduras to 60% in Ukraine. Thus, in most of the countries, the majority of women told no one of their attacks.

4. In Papua New Guinea, 59.1% of men admit to forcing an unwilling intimate partner into having sex. Forty percent of men admit to having raped a stranger.

5. According to the UN, there were 15,654 cases of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2012. However, the country is noted to chronically underreport gender-based violence figures. A study published by the American Journal of Public Health found that more than 1,100 women were raped every day in 2006 and that more than 400,000 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 were raped within a 12-month time frame.

6. A third of all survivors of sexual violence in the DRC are between the ages of 12 and 17. Reports from the UN indicate that 82% of all survivors had not finished primary school.

7. A study by Johns Hopkins that surveyed women across 25 African countries found that a high proportion of women believed that wife-beating was justified in at least one of five different hypothetical scenarios. The percentage of women who adhered to this view ranged from 18 in Swaziland to 87 in Guinea.

8. A South African women is killed by an intimate partner every 6 hours.

9. An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women throughout the world have experienced female genital mutilation. More than three million African girls face the risk of the practice every year.

10. Eighty percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually are women and girls. Seventy-nine percent of them are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Kelley Calkins

Sources: End Violence Against Women, UNFP, Al Jazeera, UN News Center, NCBI, Say No to Violence, Women Under Seige
Photo: Gabriela USA

World map
The traumatized collective consciousness of the Serbian people is understandable given the war and strife the country has experienced in recent decades. These events coupled with pervasive poverty and patriarchal cultural norms have created a disturbing trend of domestic violence. A recent article by the Associated Press highlights that 54% of Serbian women have faced domestic violence in their lifetime. This statistic is extremely shocking compared to the 30-40% of women worldwide who have faced abuse and 25% in the United States.

The AP provides two harrowing accounts of violence. One account focuses on Mica, a woman who set her husband on fire after enduring years of abuse. The husband died of his injuries several days later in the hospital. The other describes a Serbian veteran who killed 13 relatives and wounded his wife in a mass shooting spree. The husband’s violent tendencies, typified by his habitual beatings of his wife, were never reported to authorities.

One of the major reasons that violence has perpetuated within Serbian society is the presence of deeply rooted patriarchal social norms. The image of the strong Serbian man and the submissive woman is a generally held view as opposed to an egalitarian relationship found in more liberal societies. This deeply held belief coupled with severe economic misery only compounds the problem. When frustration is pervasive, violence tends to follow.

There is also a severe lapse of authority with regards to Serbian officials preventing instances of abuse and prosecuting those responsible. Although the Serbian government has recognized the problem by enacting targeted legislation, the recent economic crisis has drained budget resources to the point that adequately funding these legal mechanisms is troublesome.

Furthermore, local authorities have shown a complete lack of interest in seriously prosecuting offenders to the fullest extent of the law. Most cases are resolved with warnings to the perpetrators. Shockingly, UNDP has discovered that the vast majority of cases involving domestic abuse resulted in the prosecutor failing to even interview the victim and the perpetrator 79.5% of the time. And 66.7% of the time criminal charges were dismissed, citing lack of evidence. It seems as though tolerance for this type of violence is rooted not only within individuals but within the public institutions charged with punishing perpetrators.

UNDP has created a project to help solve the crisis of domestic violence. The Integrated Response to Violence against Women in Serbia is attempting to change these deeply held beliefs within the country by creating preventative programs such as youth education on gender equality and gender based violence, programs aimed at reaching out to perpetrators, and campaigns focused on raising public awareness and altering stereotypes.

The Associated Press points out that perhaps awareness for this problem is gaining traction among authorities in Serbia. For instance, in the case of Mica, the judge issued her a minimum sentence of five years in jail for the murder of her husband. The judge even seemed to show sympathy for all the years of abuse she endured.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: UNDP

Star Wars
Human rights group Breakthrough launched a surprising new campaign tackling violence against women.   Advertisements featuring an animated scenario have been playing on TV sets across the U.S.  The short scene depicts men stopping other men from acting inappropriately towards women.   In one bit, a man stops another man from slapping a female vendor’s bottom as she walks by them.  The tag “#BeThatGuy.  Stop violence against women in its tracks” flashes across the screen. The ads were first tested at Miami Speedway last month, where they were extremely well received.

The videos are based off the idea that men are a part of the problem, but also a part of the solution.  The core idea is that men can use their male privilege to speak up for women where women may be unable to have a voice.

Breakthrough plans on running more ads both online and on TV that discourage gender-based violence.  Breakthrough organizer Ishita Srivastava says she believes in “meeting people where they are,” including at sporting events with high institutionalized gender bias.

The campaign is called “Ring the Bell,” and calls on men to hold each other accountable.  Breakthrough calls violence and discrimination against women and girls “unacceptable.”  The organization has centers in India and the U.S.  that specialize in using media, pop culture, art and community mobilization to encourage people to “live up to their full potential.”

Breakthrough has also launched campaigns against early marriage and sex-selective termination, and in favor of immigration rights, racial justice and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Breakthrough, WITNESS Blog, Aljazeera

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

Violence Against WomenPhysical or sexual violence against women is causing a global health problem of “epidemic proportions,” according to a new study released by the World Health Organization on June 20.

The report, “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner and non-partner sexual violence,” was released in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council. According to the report, more than 1 in 3 women globally are impacted by physical or sexual violence. The perpetrator of such violence is usually an intimate partner: it affects an estimated 30 percent of women worldwide.

The new study compared this violence in high-income countries with that in other countries. The study found that 23.2 percent of women living in high-income countries experience intimate partner violence, as compared with 36.6 percent in Africa, 37 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and 37.7 percent in South-East Asia.

“These findings send a powerful message,” said Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO. “We also see that the world’s health systems can and must do more for women who experience violence.”

The report looked at the impact of violence on both the physical and mental health of girls and women, including broken bones, pregnancy-related complications, impaired social functioning, and mental problems.

Other findings on the health impacts of intimate partner violence were staggering. The report found that 38 percent of all women who were murdered were killed by their intimate partners. Women who experienced this were twice as likely to have alcohol-use problems and were 1.5 times more likely to acquire syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea. In some regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, those women were also 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV.

The report called for a major scaling up of violence-prevention efforts by addressing social and cultural factors that could be impacting the prevalence of violence. It also called for better health care for women experiencing it. Simply teaching health workers how to respond to violence could be helpful, the report noted.

The report pulled data from dozens of regional and national studies for the first time. By using regional data it was also able to highlight regional patterns. For example, women in Africa are almost twice as likely to experience violence as women living in lower and middle-income countries in Europe.

– Liza Casabona

Source: World Health Organization, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

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