‘I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but that those without a voice can be heard’ Malala Yousafzai
The global campaign to end violence against women and girls is needed more than ever. Six years ago it was estimated that one in five women around the world will face some form of violence in their lifetime – today it is one in three. These women are abused, beaten or coerced into sex most often by someone she knows, including her husband or another male family member.
November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It marks the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence leading up to the International Day for Human Rights on 10 December.
‘We face an epidemic of violence’ says Madam Mandisa Baptiste, Spouse of the UN Development Program Head in the UAE, speaking at the opening of an exhibition of her photographs at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Abu Dhabi on 26 November.
The photo exhibition and speakers event was organised by Madam Yoko Ramos, Spouse of the Philippines Ambassador and Chair of the ASEAN and Philippine Ladies Circles to support the global movement to ‘Orange the World’ to eliminate violence against women.
‘The photographs celebrate the beauty and challenges of womanhood’ noted Madam Yoko, encouraging us to change the way we see the problem of violence against women. Like the beauty and messages communicated by a good photograph, ‘it has little to do with the things that you see, and everything to do with the way that you see them’.
‘Violence in the family can affect any woman – regardless of social status, age or education’ reflected Madam Carmen Macelaru, Spouse of the Romanian Ambassador, reading remarks prepared by Madam Bozena Rostek, Spouse of the Polish Ambassador and President of the Diplomatic Group for Spouses of Ambassadors to the UAE. ‘It is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world today.’
Violence against women has a profound impact on women, their families and communities. It costs the world economy more than $13.6 trillion each year, and has lifelong debilitating effects which hamper women and girls reaching their full potential. ‘It is devastating’ said Madam Mala Prakasha, Spouse of the Fiji Ambassador.
Madam Kulpan Salimova, Spouse of the Kazakhstan Ambassador, read remarks prepared by Madam Nguyen Thu Hong, Spouse of the Vietnamese Ambassador, highlighting the encouragement of the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union for governments and civil society to organise activities to support the day.
Madame Britt Spyrou, Spouse of the Australian Ambassador, noted there has been a significant increase in actions being undertaken by both men and women in her country, a phenomenon she traces to the recognition of Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year in 2015 for her work to prevent domestic violence. ‘In Australia at this time of year many schools and workplaces organise an event to bring the community together as part of the 16 days of action, to raise awareness and stand in solidarity with the victims’.
The good news is that violence against women is preventable. While disrespect of women does not necessarily lead to violence, all acts of violence against women begin with disrespect. Research tells us that actions which encourage gender equality combat the root cause of violence.
‘When women are empowered and supported by a network of people, they are more likely to feel secure and will have better access to resources that can protect them from violence’, said Madam Mandisa. ‘You can help support a woman or girl to read or write: two thirds of the 876 million people in the world who cannot read or write are women and girls. Perhaps a female friend or acquaintance is trying to establish a career, a business or return to school. You can reach out and offer to babysit her children or share a professional or academic contact’.
It is heartening that so many steps are being taken around the world to eliminate violence against women. Specific targets have been included as one of the Sustainable Development goals, and the UNitTE Campaign at a global level, the Spotlight initiative in the European Union and the OurWatch organisation established in Australia help co-ordinate activities to end violence against women and girls.
Madam Eugenia Lucio, Spouse of the Mozambique Ambassador and Vice President of the Diplomatic Group of Spouses of Ambassadors to the UAE urged us to all do more. UNiTE Campaign urges us to focus on refugees, migrants, minorities, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters. ‘I would like to appeal to women to unite and work together towards this cause’, said Madam Eugenia.
The event was also supported by Madam Kyeong Park, Spouse of the Korean Ambassador and Madam Nurilya Sharshenbek, Spouse of the Kyrgyz Republic Ambassador.
Together the photographs, speakers and attendees at the event on 26 November affirm that violence against women is unacceptable anywhere, anytime and in whatever form it takes: we say ‘NO’ and declare that the epidemic of violence must end. #NotOnOurWatch
Activities happening in the UAE
- 23 November: Afternoon tea for spouses of Ambassadors and their children, members of the Australian Embassy community and friends of Australia for children to build a shelter and gather donations for the Ewa’a shelter for women and children in Abu Dhabi
- 26 November: ‘Orange the World’: A Photo Exhibit and Talk About Elimination of Violence Against Women
- 8 December: Women’s Healing Circle with Jacquie Sadek at Body Tree Studio. Women who have been abused can write down every abuse they have encountered in their lives. These sheets will be burned in bin lit with fire. This fire ceremony purifies and the group will then write their intentions to rebuild fragmented hearts. This will be followed by a Mantra to invite a new beginning along with yoga and meditation on each body part. The ceremony will be completed with a gong vibration.