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Why 2015 should be key to gender equality and women’s rights

by Sana Afouaiz - 02 March 2015

Blog-Manu03Empowering women is not only a natural human right to achieve, but also a crucial economic objective to ending poverty and boosting economic development.

Let’s go back over the past few years. The incredible work of women's movements across the world has brought some positive changes. Countries started to recognize the fact that it is necessary to meet the needs of the other half of the population (women) which is left out of education and work, and, in addition, excluded from decision-making.

The past 20 years were marked by the signing of international agreements boosting the women's rights agenda. For example, 1994 was marked by The International Conference on Population and Development, which shifted the focus on population control from government efforts to ensure family planning, to guarantee women’s empowerment and improve their lives. This initiative scrutinized issues like access to decent reproductive health services, sexual health advice and the elimination of domestic violence and forced marriages. One hundred and seventy nine countries signed up to the 200 recommendations of the initiative. What a huge step!

Then there was The Fourth World Conference on Women committed to achieving gender equality by ensuring women's involvement in public and private life and allowing them an equal voice in decision-making.

Last September, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, delivered a special speech at the special event, HeForShe Campaign at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters, highlighting the importance of the participation of men in ending gender inequality.

But with all this success comes the backlash, since globally, about one in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime, and more than 140 million women are estimated to be living with the consequences of female genital mutilation. What are we going to do about this? Why is it so complicated to end violence against women?

In 2010, research by the Association for Women's Rights in Development (Awid) revealed that women's rights organizations are hugely underfunded as the average annual income of 740 organizations was about $20,000.

Moreover, regardless of numerous UN resolutions which indicate the necessity of women's involvement in peace and reconciliation, women are still not included in peace talks.

According to the World Health Organization, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Thirty percent of women who were in a relationship reported that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner. Globally, in 38% cases of women murdered, they were committed by an intimate partner.

Shocking right? This is just the beginning.

Referring to the WHO, between 15% of women in Japan and 71% of women in Ethiopia stated physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Between 0.3 and 11.5% of women reported experiencing sexual violence by someone other than a partner since the age of 15 years. The first sexual experience for many women was reported as forced: 17% of women in rural Tanzania, 24% in rural Peru, and 30% in rural Bangladesh reported that their first sexual experience was forced.

Recent research by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights showed that in Guatemala, two women were murdered on average each day. In India, 8,093 cases of dowry-related deaths were reported in 2007, and an unknown number of murders of women and young girls were falsely labeled as ‘suicides’ or ‘accidents’. In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40% and 70% of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners. In the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, 66% of murders of women were committed by husbands, boyfriends or other family members.

I’m asking you, how do you feel as a human being after reading this unlimited numbers of murdering and violence? What could we, you and me, do to change this?

When a woman is violated, this results in lower levels of education attainment; health issues; exposure to child maltreatment; suffering from antisocial personality disorder and exclusion from society and development.

If the world does not address this issue, it is a waste of the massive potential of women and girls. When they feel safe, they are empowered and in turn, women and girls can be changemakers. They could be the innovators of tomorrow, the power behind stronger economies, and the leaders of not only a country but worldwide.

To end violence, governments need to accelerate their efforts to face this issue by endorsing legislation and developing policies to address discrimination against women; by promoting gender equality to help moving towards more peaceful cultural norms.

Men need to show respect to women. Beating your girlfriend, wife, sisters or any girl, doesn’t make you a man, but a violent oppressor.

Ladies, don’t you ever accept to be violated by anyone. Don’t let the cultural forms control you as a human being, don’t let them enforce you to accept violence. It is your right to live a peaceful and respectful life.

Living free from violence is a human right, yet many women suffer excessively from violence, both in peace and in war, in the home and community, in the city and the countryside. Across the globe, women are beaten, raped, injured and killed.

I hope that 2015 will be a key solution to end violence against women and not just a subject.

Your voice has power. Use it to help put an end to gender-based violence by supporting the International Violence against Women Act during #16Days of Activism!

Do something about it! Start now!


Sana Afouaiz

Student, women advocate activist, trainer in the field of climate change and women’s rights, journalist and blogger.

Read more about Sana and her view on being a futurist



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