Gender-based violence is a serious problem around the world. Every day, women endure sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of abuse. It is estimated that one in three women will experience some form of gender-based violence during their lifetime, and more must be done to protect women and girls, particularly in developing countries. Nov. 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and many human rights organizations around the world are campaigning for the rights of women and calling for greater action to end gender-based violence.
Violence against women is a problem that transcends racial, socioeconomic and political boundaries. Gender-based violence not only threatens the lives of countless women around the world, it also has a tremendous economic and social impact. In some developing nations, the marginalization and abuse of women and girls undermines social cohesion, places lives at risk and perpetuates the cycle of abuse.
The United States Agency for International Development is just one organization that has launched a campaign to coincide with International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. USAID's 16 Days campaign aims to highlight the extent of gender-based violence, raise awareness of practices such as domestic violence, sexual assault and forced marriages of girls, and encourage governments around the world to do more to protect and empower vulnerable women and girls.
"We need to improve our efforts to prevent and respond to this crisis. When women are afforded their rights and given the chance to pursue education, employment and political participation, they drive social and economic progress," reads a 2011 statement from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "They lift up themselves, their families, communities and their nations. But to build this future, girls must be able to learn without fear, and women must be able to make decisions about their own lives and the future of their families."
The trafficking of women and girls is one of the most serious problems facing governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. According to UNESCO, it is estimated that more than 2.4 million people are bought, sold or transported against their will every year. Of this figure, 80 percent are women and 75 percent are under the age of 25.
Human trafficking is not the only crime being perpetrated against women and girls around the world. In some countries, rates of gender-based violence are actually increasing. Combating abuse and violence against women is often difficult due to the complexities of international law, the underreporting of gender-based violence and pervasive inequality and negative attitudes toward women in some countries.
Gender-based violence is a serious problem in many of the countries in which ChildFund operates. In Uganda, domestic violence against wives is a significant threat to the physical and emotional well-being of women, and in Sierra Leone, sexual violence was used as a weapon during the civil war that raged in the country between 1991 and 2002. Thousands of women still bear the psychological scars of these attacks, and more must be done to prevent such abuses.
This year on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, please consider purchasing a gift that will help a girl or woman continue her education or receive job training that will lead to a more independent, happier life. Ending violence against women is a substantial challenge, but together, we can raise awareness of these abuses and work toward a brighter future in which women and girls have equal opportunities.