1. Why is it important to mark 25 November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women? What does it mean to you?
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is the yearly commemoration of a stand against a global ill which should not even exist in the first place – violence against women and girls (VAWG). November 25 was selected to honour the Mirabal sisters, three Dominican Republic political activists, who were gruesomely beaten and strangled to death, then put in a Jeep that drove off a mountainous road in 1960, as ordered by Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961), the country’s leader at that time. This day marks the beginning of 16 days of activism, finally culminating in International Human Rights Day.
Personally, I think every day, not just the 25th of November should be used to advocate against VAWG. My view is not solely only based on the fact that I am a survivor of multiple violence, but because VAWG is now a shadow pandemic crushing the livelihoods of many families, communities and societies, and above all leading to tragic deaths of women and girls, especially due to domestic violence and harmful practices like female genital mutilation. Worldwide, an estimated 35% of women have been assaulted physically and sexually by a stranger. The flip side is that women are not even safe with people around them (partners, family, friends), as they account for 70% of global VAWG incidences. Despite the fact that over 140 countries have laws against violence, 1 in 3 females still experience one form of violence or the other, including human trafficking. Hence, there are evidence to support this global cause, which show the urgency in ending this pandemic that has ravaged the world for many centuries.
To me, it is the beginning of a powerful 16-day period of strengthening advocacy and engagement of different activists, actors, organizations, communities, societies and countries across the world, as we all speak with one voice to address violence against women and girls across the world.
2. In your experience, what can governments and leaders do to tackle this issue?
Lockdown restrictions led to a geometric increase in violence across the world. While we are trying to navigate the pandemic and build back better, there is a need to prioritize essential support services for survivors, including shelters, and stimulus packages to enable find their feet in the midst of the economic crunch. Emergency toll-free helplines have also proven to be useful at a time like this when mobility is quite reduced for some women, who have to home-school their children or cater to an ailing family member.
It is therefore pertinent for the government to increase investments to prevent and respond to VAWG, just like it is with Covid-19. It is a crisis point that will keep exploding beyond control if not prioritized. I think governments and leaders can tackle this issue the following ways;
- Strengthen services for survivors through capacity rapid assessments, adapted to the crisis context, to ensure continuous access to support.
- Strengthen helplines, online counselling, tech-based solutions (SMS and social support networks) to provide quality first-hand support services to women and girls.
- Include evidence-based priority approaches to address VAWG in COVID-19 national response plans, and allocate more funding to prevention of VAWG.
- Capacity building of key services (police and judiciary) will prevent impunity and boost the quality of response to VAWG
- First responders (health workers, emergency shelter staff, law enforcement) must also be trained on psychosocial support, to help women and girls during crisis situations like Covid-19 and in conflict zones.
- Increase the participation of women’s and women-led community organizations in decision making at local and state government levels, so the concerns are addressed based on evidence.
- Women-led organizations and organizations that offer support services to survivors must be considered in long-term plans to address VAWG, as they constantly interact with survivors, even at the grassroots level. It is therefore essential that they are provided resources to give quality survivor-based and risk-based services to hard-to-reach areas.
3. What will you pledge on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women?
On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I pledge to end violence against women now, by inspiring action and creating an atmosphere where men lead the fight against violence; continuously raising awareness on the adverse effects of violence and enable people recognize the problem as a crisis which must be addressed now; till every woman and girl live their lives productively, without fear or limit.