In 1999 Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary General, stated “Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.”
Sadly, in 2023 there is still a need to raise awareness of the pervasive and persistent nature of violence against women and girls (VAWG).
Globally, 1 in 3 women will experience abuse in her lifetime. This statistic might feel remote and unrelatable, yet it means that there is very likely to be a woman or girl in our family, within our friendship group and within our church and community who has been abused. If you think of how many women there are in your family and think of the 1 in 3, it starts to bring the issue close to home. In fact, violence against women and girls is closer to home than we would like to think it is. Globally, domestic abuse is the most common form of violence against women.
We like to think that violence against women doesn’t happen here, and it makes us feel uncomfortable that it could be in our families’ homes. Do we know of families where we think, or perhaps even know, that things are not right and the relationship is abusive? Yet often we feel powerless to speak up or take action.
The 16 Days of Activism give us that opportunity to speak out and take action on preventing and ending violence against women and girls. Running from 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls, to Human Rights Day on December 10th, the 16 days of activism give us a good opportunity to break the silence on abuse.
During the 16 Days of Activism events will be held across Anglican churches worldwide. Through webinars, participation in Thursdays in Black, Orange The World or the Red Chair Project, churches and Christians will be taking action to highlight the solvable issue of violence against women and girls.
And it is a solvable issue. It is mainly the attitudes and actions of men that have to change to bring an end to violence against women and girls. This is a core discipleship issue for our churches, yet it is rarely spoken about in discipleship courses.
Survivors of abuse want safe spaces in our churches where they can disclose abuse and be signposted to help and support where that is available. Our churches can be places of healing, comfort and support. But we need to ensure that we are listening to, and learning from, survivors when responding to abuse.
The Anglican Alliance works on ending violence against women through each of its five priority areas: tackling inequalities; thriving communities; people on the move; disaster resilience and response; and safeguarding creation. For example, our work on human trafficking raises awareness of the particular issues faced by women being trafficked and our work on climate change incorporates a gendered perspective as the climate crisis can increase gender-based violence (see the COP26 policy paper, page 25).
Twenty four years after Kofi Annan spoke, there is still a need to work towards ending the pervasive nature of violence against women and girls. This 16 Days of Activism, will you play a part in bringing violence against women to an end?