By Helen John, Gender, Social Inclusion, and Community Engagement Advisor
As a global women’s empowerment organization, Zonta International reports:
“Violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive human rights violations and a global epidemic. It knows no national or cultural barriers; it takes place at home, in the workplace and in open spaces, and affects millions of women and girls in peacetime and conflict. It includes psychological, physical and sexual violence, and harmful practices such as rape, female genital cutting, child marriage and human trafficking. Violence against women and girls threatens countries, inhibits economic progress, and prevents women from contributing to their community and creating better lives for themselves and their families.”
It is difficult not to speak about violence when it seems to be what our society knows and what the society communicates. Violence has become so deeply entrenched in our communities that we find ways of justifying it, and we want to dictate responses to it for those who have survived it.
As a health development expert, I advocate to the government for the rights of women and girls to live free of violence in their health centers and communities. I advocate, for example, for the domestication of national policies like the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act in Nigeria. I also talk about violence against women with colleagues and government stakeholders so that violence loses its taboo and can be more openly addressed; this also creates an opportunity for others to take violence against women and girls more seriously and understand the need for the transformative work required to eliminate violence and support victims and survivors.
This year for the 16 Days of Activism, I lend my voice to amplify the voices of other women. I call on individuals, communities, and governments to stop and take stock of ourselves and how we discuss and respond to issues related to the prevention of violence against women and girls. We must turn away from harmful attitudes and behaviors.