November 25, 2008

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: What it Means, Why it Matters and Where We Go from Here

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 1999 declaring today, Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Why Nov. 25?

The origins of November 25th go back to 1960, when the three Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic were violently assassinated for their political activism. The sisters, known as the “Unforgettable Butterflies,” became a symbol of the crisis of violence against women in Latin America. November 25th was the date chosen to commemorate their lives and promote global recognition of gender violence, and has been observed in Latin America since the 1980s.

Several years ago, a UN report found that one in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Say No to Violence, a campaign by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), today delivered signatures collected worldwide — more than 5 million in all — to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. A webcast of the event can be viewed here.

The Say No to Violence initiative supports the multi-year UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign and “aims to demonstrate that there is a global movement of people who demand that ending violence against women be a top priority for governments everywhere.” Here are highlights from related events around the world this year.

UNIFEM today also announced that the UN Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women (which UNIFEM manages), will award nearly $19 million in 2008 to 23 projects and initiatives in 29 countries that are addressing gender-based violence. Last year a total of $5 million was disbursed, so in that context $19 million is impressive, though the amount still falls far short of the demand.

“Overall, grants requests amounting to US$525 million were received this year for initiatives in developing countries, including in conflict-affected countries where widespread and systematic sexual violence has become a horrific tactic of warfare,” notes this UNIFEM release.

This compendium of facts and figures on violence against women paints a grim picture:

For women aged 15 to 44 years, violence is a major cause of death and disability [2]. In a 1994 study based on World Bank data about ten selected risk factors facing women in this age group, rape and domestic violence rated higher than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria [3]. Moreover, several studies have revealed increasing links between violence against women and HIV/AIDS. Women who have experienced violence are at a higher risk of HIV infection: a survey among 1,366 South African women showed that women who were beaten by their partners were 48 percent more likely to be infected with HIV than those who were not [4].

Take a look at the great amount of work that will be done for $19 million and imagine how many more issues could be addressed if the UN Trust Fund had more resources:

In 2008, grants go to organizations to support the implementation of national laws, policies, and action plans on ending violence against women. 13 initiatives in 18 countries will receive grants amounting to US$12 million to that end. Examples of such projects approved in this 13th grant cycle include:

In India, a grantee will facilitate the implementation of the national 2005 “Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act” by developing a model of an effective response system for women survivors of violence that involves multiple state agencies.

In Ecuador, a project will develop the linkage between economic empowerment and prevention of violence against women in two border rural provinces marked by poverty and discrimination, and highly affected by the armed conflict in Colombia.

In Serbia, a model for cooperation between the police and social welfare centres at provincial level will ensure systematic and standardized data collection and analysis on reported cases of violence against women, as well as coordinated services for survivors of violence.

In China, the UN Country Team intends to raise political commitment among policy makers to adopt a national policy and legislation on domestic violence by working in close partnership with the “All China Women’s Federation” and various ministries. This joint UN programme will build upon good practices and lessons learned from successful pilot projects.

A second set of grants amounting to US$7 million are awarded to 10 groups in 13 countries focusing on catalytic, innovative and learning initiatives to address violence against women.

In Morocco, a country where women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and violence upon becoming pregnant outside of wedlock, support for professional development and legal literacy will be provided for single mothers.

A cross-regional initiative will document and evaluate four interventions to promote positive changes in men’s attitudes and behaviours regarding gender roles and norms in Brazil, Chile, India and Rwanda, contributing to the knowledge base on effective strategies to engage men in ending violence against women.

Related News:

- The BBC looks at how organizations around the world are using the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to comment on the situation facing women in their regions. Oxfam, for instance, is launching a campaign in Kenya to reduce the social acceptability of domestic violence. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Cambodia has released a report noting that women face an increased risk of rape and sexual assault.

- Today marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, started in 1991 by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in New Jersey.

According to the Center, participants chose to start Nov. 25 and end Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.

Participating sites include Ireland 16 Days Campaign; Politics, Security and Women (an initiative of the Prajnya Trust, India); cfd, the feminist peace organization (Switzerland); and Feminist Peace Network, which is taking part in Take Back the Tech, which uses information communication technologies to raise awareness about violence against women.

Look over in the right-side column on this site for a Take Back the Tech widget — it will feature a new action each day of the campaign.


One Response to “International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: What it Means, Why it Matters and Where We Go from Here”

  1. Margie Says:

    We can only hope that having Hillary as Secretary of State will bring more attention to this critical issue.

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