Violence against women and girls, irrespective of what community, country or continent where one lives, is one of the most pervasive challenges facing humankind. The consequences across society, from the individual to nation-states and regions, demonstrate the range and severity of the crisis:
One out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
When women and girls are oppressed by violence and intimidation, businesses and government agencies are impacted — from employee absences, security costs, prosecution of alleged perpetrators, and increased poverty from a shrunken workforce of female citizens unable to work at their full capacity.
Further, women who have experienced violence are at a higher risk of HIV infection. A critical survey several years ago among South African women showed that those who were beaten by their partners were 48% more likely to be infected with HIV than those who were not beaten.
As advocates and leaders within our respective organizations and communities, we have an opportunity, a responsibility, to mitigate and halt this pernicious phenomenon.
Often, violence against women and girls is fostered by negative constructs of masculinity and manhood, which lead men to believe they must hold certain qualities and exhibit behavior which is typically harmful to others, and sometimes themselves. For example, physical strength and sexual prowess can be used as indicators of whether or not someone is a “real man,” as well as economic viability — being able to provide for oneself and family — and, having recognized authority or power beyond oneself.
For men of all ages, it is critical to facilitate or initiate dialogue amongst themselves about violence against women and girls, and broader issues about gender and manhood. Most men are not consciously perpetrating acts of violence against women and girls. The main problem is that most men who are not abusive — physically nor verbally — remain silent and do not hold other men accountable, much less discourage their language and behavior. Achieving gender equality and the prevention of violence against women and girls is simply an impossible goal without changing the mind-set and actions of boys and young men toward their female counterparts. It also requires redefining and embracing representations of manhood that run counter to traditional examples. For too long the absence of men and boys in the larger discussions women constantly have has been an impediment to lasting progress.
Women and girls, too, must be able to share their truths as survivors of targeted violence inflicted upon them because of their gender. Real fears about social stigma and isolation can only be overcome through the broad recognition that violence against women and girls is tragically normalized. By not giving the survivors of gender-based violence emotional affirmation and nonjudgmental support, we allow their offenders to operate freely and with impunity.
A key component for responding to violence against women and girls is messaging.
Success in addressing violence against women and girls must be seen as a long-term, intergenerational endeavor. It’s about transforming cultures and societies which hold beliefs and systems harmful to women and girls, as well as other vulnerable populations. It demands of you as leaders maintenance of focus, work in community with other like-minded individuals to identify viable responses, and hope.
Read More here https://yali.state.gov/courses/women-girls-3/