November 17

First observed in 2000, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is an opportunity for governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations to raise public awareness of violence against women. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. According to UNITE to End Violence Against Women (A 2008 campaign launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon), “violence can include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse, and it cuts across boundaries of age, race, culture, wealth and geography. It takes place in the home, on the streets, in schools, the workplace, in farm fields, refugee camps, during conflicts and crises. It has many manifestations — from the most universally prevalent forms of domestic and sexual violence, to harmful practices, abuse during pregnancy, so-called honor killings and other types of femicide.“

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, states, “Violence against women is a form of discrimination and a violation of human rights. It causes untold misery, cutting short lives and leaving countless women living in pain and fear in every country in the world. It harms families across the generations, impoverishes communities and reinforces other forms of violence throughout societies. Violence against women stops them from fulfilling their potential, restricts economic growth and undermines development. It can only be eliminated, therefore, by addressing discrimination, promoting women’s equality and empowerment, and ensuring that women’s human rights are fulfilled.”

Facts

  • Up to 70 percent of women and girls will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime.
  • Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.
  • Women and girls comprise 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation.
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.1 million and Sub-Saharan Africa (14.1 million).
  • Domestic violence alone cost approximately US$1.16 billion in Canada and US$5.8 billion in the United States.
Reflections/Actions:
  • Make a list of what I know about women and the violence they suffer on the local level, in my state, in my country, around the world. Where is the gap in knowledge? What can I do to educate myself with regard to this gap?
  • For teachers: Include activities to raise awareness and promote prevention of violence against women and girls in your curriculum.
    Read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide ($9.57) by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu Dunn. Hold a book discussion. A recent PBS special on the book is also available as a DVD ($26.96). The film, hosted by Nick Clooney, is divided into segments. Hold a showing of the film or one of the segments followed by a discussion. (Both are available online through Amazon.com; the Charity Federation UN NGO office (
    cjwilliengo@gmail.com) also has copies of both which can be borrowed.)
  • Sign the global call for action to tell governments around the world that you want them to make ending violence against women and girls a top priority.
  • Pray daily for women and young girls throughout the world.
  • Other resources for education include: The Polaris Project website, dedicated to human trafficking, the UN Database on Violence Against WomenUN End Violence Against Women and Girls, and the SCN Family website (Global Ministries tab at top and previous "Action Alerts” tab on the right side)