Every so often I get contacted by various NGOs to share important advocacy and awareness campaigns. If you follow my blog, you know how seriously I take my social good advocacy especially when it comes to poverty, violence against women and girls, global health and education. When you have witnessed some of these horrendous tragedies firsthand, you will forever be changed and feel compelled to tell the countless stories you’ve heard along the way.
Recently I was contacted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) advising me of an awareness campaign that is near and dear to my heart: Gender violence. From November 25 to December 10, USAID is promoting an awareness campaign called 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (#16Days) in attempt to shed light on this important issue.
When I was in India this past May on a social good blogging trip, I visited a beautiful school for abused girls in the heart of a Delhi slum. Almost every child at the school had been either physically or sexually abused yet their perseverance to move beyond their pain made my heart melt and fulfilled me with hope and commitment that I would never forget them nor their cause. No one should have to suffer because of their gender. Yet sadly many do.
Around the world the numbers are shocking.
- Globally, almost 400 million women aged 20-49 were married before 18. (Girls Not Brides).
- In the developing world, 1 in 3 girls are said to be married before 18. (Girls Not Brides)
- There are more than 50 million children already married. (USAID)
- 1 in 3 women and girls experience violence in their lifetime (UNICEF)
- Trafficking in persons victimizes millions of men, women, and children worldwide. Although precise numbers are unknown, recent estimates of the number of people enslaved in sex or labor exploitation range from 12 to 27 million. Many are women and girls (USAID).
- Men and boys also experience sexual violence, increasingly documented in conflict countries and especially when gender identity conflicts with gender norms. Gender-based violence (GBV) also affects other marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities and the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community.(USAID)
It is hard to imagine that so much violence and human rights abuses still exist even here in the United States where violence against women and girls happens across the nation on a daily basis. But it does and there are often complex reasons why it continues to thrive. It has been proven that ending child marriages, keeping girls in school and educated, and delaying childbirth and number of children per family has helped alleviate violence against women in the developing world. Here in the United States, having more resources available for victims of domestic violence and rape has also helped.
Yet I argue that culturally the views on girls and women must change across the board. In the developed world, how are women supposed to be treated as equals when the media is constantly objectifying them? Objectification of women is everywhere we look: In the movies we watch, in the music we listen to, in the magazines we read, and sadly even in the newspapers. Our children are being raised in a world in which women are constantly treated as sex objects and women of power are criticized.
In the developing world, women’s rights fare much worse. In many countries, women are treated as the lesser sex than men. Girls often don’t go to school, are married off way too young, and end up with too many mouths to feed and no education. Violence against women and girls is accepted and sometimes extreme in some cultures.
However, there is hope and there are things we can do to help alleviate gender based violence against women and girls:
We can send more girls to school:
Per 10×10, globally more than 600 million girls live in the developing world and of that number 77.6 million girls are currently not enrolled in either primary or secondary school. This is a huge problem which has significant repercussions on not only girls but the economy and well-being of society as a whole.
We can put an end to child marriage:
“Child marriage affects millions of children under the age of 18 every year, preventing them from living a productive life. Perpetuated by cultural norms, poverty, and lack of access to education, child marriage not only affects the lives of those who are married, but also their families and communities,” per USAID.
We can offer women a sense of value and financial resources through micro-financing, property rights, and education in vocational skills:
Finally, we can urge governments including our own to enforce laws against human trafficking worldwide. Trafficking happens all around the world in various industries and even right outside your doorstep. A recent child trafficking ring was busted here in my hometown of Minneapolis sending a chilling reminder that this can happen even next door.
We all have a part in making the world a better place by becoming aware of the issues and educating ourselves. If you would like to learn more about the USAID’s #16 days against Gender Violence Campaign, here are some resources:
- The campaign will feature personal stories via USAID’s website and blog, a distribution of facts via social media, and events and live chats intended to increase public awareness of the violence encountered by women and men based on gender or sexuality every day.
- To learn more about Gender Based Violence, click here.