Ending violence against women everywhere

UN calls for more action to prevent the heavy toll of violence against women

‘It is not acceptable, it is not inevitable and it can be prevented.’

These are the words of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Yet one in three women and girls will be subjected to such attacks in their lifetimes.

Whether it is physical, sexual or psychological, sadly violence is a fact of life for far too many women around the world. Almost 50 per cent of women killed in 2012 were the victims of intimate partners or family members, compared to less than 6 per cent of men, according to the UN.

UN Women is calling for more action to prevent such a heavy and avoidable toll. To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the UN agency is today launching Orange the World – a 16-day campaign lasting until Human Rights Day on December 10, to step up strategies and action to prevent violence against women.

The “continued presence [of violence] is one of the clearest markers of societies out of balance”, says Mlambo-Ngcuka. “We are determined to change that.”

Violence can, and does, take many forms. It ranges from verbal sexual harassment – experienced by 88 per cent of women surveyed in Delhi – to female genital mutilation that affects some 133 million girls globally, including in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East. It includes child brides, cyber-harassment and human trafficking, for which 70 per cent of victims are female. Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. All place a heavy burden on the everyday lives of women.

But we all have a role to play in doing more than just lament its existence. “Imagine how different the world would be for girls growing up now if we could prevent early marriage, female genital mutilation, the turning of a blind eye to domestic violence, abusive text messages, the impunity of rapists, the enslavement of women in conflict areas, the killing of women human rights defenders,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka. “It is indeed a priority.”

As we raise awareness of what the UN terms a global “pandemic”, here are just some of the people already making a difference in the region: helping Egypt’s ‘poverty prisoners; Brac founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed on gender equality; saving India’s child brides; tackling modern day slavery; and those giving Morocco’s ‘little maids’ a second chance.