The world celebrates every year on 25 November the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), as it is not only one of the worst forms of discrimination, but also remains the most widespread and pervasive human rights violation in the world.
Celebrating the day, 11 UN entities released a joint press statement kicking off the UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls Campaign in which they noted that an estimated one in three women experience gender-based violence during their lifetime.
Moreover, the statement added that last year, nearly one in five women were married before turning 18 and less than 40% experience violence and seek help of any sort.
At the same time, global emergencies, crises, and conflict have further intensified VAWG and exacerbated the drivers and risk factors.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 45% of women reported that they or a woman they know has experienced a form of VAWG,” according to the statement.
Natural disasters also aggravate all types of gender-based violence, as witnessed in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, in 2011’s tropical cyclones in Vanuatu, and from 2019 to 2022 during the bush fires in Australia.
Meanwhile, existing forms of gender-based violence have grown online as anti-rights movements have flourished.
These have resulted in a “shrinking space for civil society, a backlash against women’s rights organisations, and a rise in attacks against women human rights defenders and activists,” the UN entities stated.
Combatting the scourge
While ending VAWG might seem unimaginable, the UN underscored that “it is not.”
“Large-scale reductions in violence against women can be achieved through intensive feminist activism and advocacy coupled with evidence and practice-informed multisectoral action and investment,” the statement continued.
Citing evidence suggesting that “strong and autonomous feminist movements” as being “the most critical factor” in ending VAWG, UN Women and its sister agencies are calling upon governments and partners to “act now to end violence against women and show their solidarity to women’s rights movements and activists.”
Taking steps, making a stand
Through the UNiTE campaign, the UN is asking for increased long-term funding and support to women’s rights organisations working on solutions to prevent and respond to VAWG.
It is also advocating for resisting the rollback on women’s rights, amplifying the voices of women human rights defenders and feminist women’s movements, mobilising more actors to join movements to end VAGW globally, and promoting the leadership and participation of women and girls in political, policy making, and decision-making spaces.
The statement also underscores the need to strengthen protections to prevent and eliminate violence, harassment, threats, intimidation, and discrimination against women human rights defenders and women’s rights advocates/activists.