Guest Blog from ActionAid

Guest blog from ActionAid on International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls

Stand with fearless women and girls against violence

Wangu is a survivor. In 2002, she was car-jacked. Not only was she raped and robbed, she also found that the police did not take her seriously when she reported the assault.

"People don't see sexual violence as a crime. They think it's just an issue between a man and a woman; just like sex. They don't understand that it takes your dignity away."

The stigma and blame attached to rape survivors drove Wangu into a deep depression for more than two years. After getting counselling, she decided to use her experience to help other women in a similar situation and founded The Wangu Kanja Foundation, a partner of ActionAid. The foundation provides access to comprehensive care and support, as well as restorative justice services and income generating activities for survivors. It runs business and entrepreneurship training, giving women the skills they need to set up their own business.

“I wanted to use my experience to help survivors of sexual violence access medical, psychological and legal support, as well as inform and create the services. Only survivors of such an experience can really understand what women who have suffered sexual violence have gone through.”

One in Three
Wangu is not alone in undergoing such a traumatic experience. Around the world, one in three women and girls will suffer some form of violence at some point in their life, regardless of where they live, their age, class, caste, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income or disability. Women and girls face the possibility of violence anywhere – in the home, on the street, at school or at work. Tragically, most acts of violence are perpetrated by someone they know, such as an intimate partner. And while men and boys also experience violence, it is women and girls who are disproportionately affected.

For many, especially in developing countries, violence and poverty reinforce each other, undermining the potential of women to control their lives, realise economic opportunities or affect change in the world. The existing level of violence is a global scandal that is linked to many of the most significant challenges that national governments and the international community are grappling with today – including widening inequalities, continuing conflict and insecurity, and the struggle to overcome poverty.

Women and girls leading the charge
But, as we found through our Fearless campaign, women and girls are not helpless victims. In countries all over the world they are speaking out, standing up for themselves and putting their lives on the line to challenge violence and gender inequality. They are at the forefront of the fight to realise their right to a life free from violence. The women’s movement has achieved significant victories in bringing the world’s attention to gender-based violence, but we still have a long way to go.

Ending violence against women is within our reach
We now have a historic opportunity to make change happen. In September, world leaders agreed a new set of global goals for development – which include a stand-alone gender goal (goal 5) and a target (5:2) on ending all forms of violence against women and girls. It is a goal the world cannot afford to miss.

Through our work with grassroots women’s rights organisations in developing countries, we have learnt that for meaningful progress to happen, governments and donors must lead the way. The Conservative Party has a strong track record in government championing women and girls’ empowerment at international level and now has a chance to truly cement its legacy on this important issue, through:

• Stepping up financing for gender equality, specifically supporting and resourcing grassroots women’s rights organisations.

• Work with Governments in developing countries to create and implement laws and national action plans that set out how violence against women and girls can be tackled.

• Ensuring governments around the world can be held accountable for their efforts to achieve the global goals and eliminate gender-based violence through setting up a Global Monitoring Report

So, mark in your diaries, 25 November - International day to end violence against women and girls, and join ActionAid in showing solidarity with these fearless women and girls:

• Attend our parliamentary event (25 November, 18.00 – 19.30, Committee Room 11)

• Visit our parliamentary exhibition (Upper Waiting Hall, 23 – 27 November)

• Have your picture taken at the #Fearless photo-booth to show that you stand with fearless women worldwide.

Together, let’s make violence a thing of the past.

For more information about our work, please visit our website.