By Sarah Pentlow
Global Lead for Gender Equality and Social Inclusion
It happens everyday to women in the workplace, in the home, in the courtroom, and in the classroom. The fear of violence impacts women in Canada and around the world. One in three women globally have experienced some form of violence whether it be sexual, physical, psychological or economic. The 16 Days of Activism to end gender-based violence is an opportunity to speak out against violence against women.
A study exploring women’s fear of victimization found that 61 per cent of women in Canada were afraid of walking alone in their neighbourhood at night and 75 per cent were worried about using public transportation at night. The same report suggests men are roughly 11 times less likely than women to experience “being forced to do something sexual” in their lifetime. In other parts of the world, the statistics are alarming. In Nigeria, for example, a country where girls in some regions are married as young as 10–12 years old, more than 50 cases of gender-based violence are reported daily.
This year as part of the 16 Days of Activism, Cuso International joins others in raising our voices. With the support of volunteers and local partners across the globe, we are speaking out. In Benin, adolescent girls and boys will participate in slam poetry competitions to denounce violence using art and culture to help trigger a reboot of attitudes and behaviours. In Peru, our partners are organizing marches to demand a women’s right to live free from violence. In Laos, our partner organization is participating in a national photography contest using visual art. In Nicaragua, our partners are providing support to survivors of domestic violence, encouraged by one survivor’s aspiration “to succeed in ending violence against women. (It) is one of the greatest goals you could have in life.”
Ending violence against women will require more than changing the actions of individuals, it requires changes in traditional structures. This too is an area where our work with local partners is helping to revise laws that place women’s lives in danger as well as challenging harmful cultural norms. In Honduras, Cuso International is working alongside partners to fight for the sexual reproductive and health rights of women.
In Nigeria and Benin, our local partners are initiating important conversations with community leaders about gender-based violence. Our Nigerian colleague says she will continue speaking out against gender-based violence so that her daughter will have a better future.
And we will join her.
Imagine a world where there is no violence against women, a world where women are not bound by traditional attitudes and behaviours. This would be a world without fear, where women and men and girls and boys are considered equal. A world where the dreams of women and girls are realized, and not destroyed.
We won’t stop talking and we won’t stop working to end violence against women. Because it is, in fact, the greatest goal one could have.