Thankful, but still angry: my rant (on repeat) for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Yesterday… Thanksgiving. I’m thankful. And stuffed. But today… I’m still mad. Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Every year we “commemorate” this day. And every year I say: There is something seriously WRONG in the world if we even need such a day.
Meanwhile, every year, we say the same things over and over again. And every year, we cite statistics. And every year, those statistics aren’t getting better. Yup. Read that again. We’re moving backwards in too many ways.
Yes, that’s here and now and in your country and in your town and your culture and your religion and your community and in whatever group you belong to. You’re not immune to this. Neither am I. I’ve already experienced enough of it to make me the “one” in three. And probably you too. Or at least more women and girls that you know.
Need more proof? Here we go — again.
1 in 4 young women will experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner before the time they reach their mid-twenties. Violence perpetrated by people they love — who claim to love them. Every hour, five women and girls are killed by someone in their own family. FIVE every hour.
Meaning: in the time I’ve taken to write this blog, five women have been murdered.
But it’s not just in our homes. It’s on our streets, our schools, our offices, and everywhere in between.
All around the world, women and girls are still not able to fully participate in all aspects of social, economic, and political life. They have less choice and less voice — and are further burdened with the responsibility of rectifying this imbalance. Meaning: most of those who scream out today — and every damn day — about violence against women are women.
These forms of violence are all around us, insidious. From the seemingly-benign catcall on the street (not at all benign!) to the many ways power is abused and abuse is inflicted on women. This has gotten worse as a result of the pandemic as well. We seem to be no closer to “eliminating” violence against women than when we started these campaigns.
Meanwhile, I’m not stopping. I’ll keep screaming about it every year. But there aren’t enough voices screaming along. What arguments do you need to be convinced? Surely it is the right thing to do!? Surely a life free of violence is everyone’s right!?
There’s also an economic argument — in case you need one of those. The global cost of violence against women is projected to be $1.5 trillion — and it keeps increasing.
We live in a reality where nowhere in the world is a woman completely safe from violence. Meaning: nowhere in the world is it actually safe to be a woman.
Many of us scream every day. But today — November 25 — our screams might be a little bit louder. Historically, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women originated from the 1960 assassination of three political activist sisters in the Dominican Republic — Patria, Minerva and María Teresa Mirabal. Known as “las Mariposas” (“the Butterflies”), their murder fueled public outrage. Around the Dominican Republic, young children grow up learning the tale of the brave “butterflies” — a well-known symbol across the country.
November 25 has been widely recognized and honored by women in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1981. In 1993, the UN General Assembly defined violence against women as resulting in, or likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women in public or in private life. And in 1999, the UN formally recognized this date.
And today, 23 years later, where are we?! Still screaming.
Now the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women marks the start of what we call the “16 Days of Activism” — essentially 16 days of more screaming — ending on December 10, International Human Rights Day.
Violence against women is one of the most prevalent — and best hidden — human rights violations in the world. This violence knows no boundaries and remains in a culture of silence.
The world is a little less silent these days — although certainly not loud enough for my liking. Movements like #MeToo, founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, and many others around the world are reminding us of the urgence in taking action — and in eliminating violence against women at last.
At the same time, there’s pushback. Backlash. There are anti-feminist groups and individuals trying to shut us up and shut us down. Everywhere.
What to do?! Support women-led women’s rights organizations who are on the frontlines. Fuel feminist movements that are pushing forward, against the pushback. Take action in whatever ways you can — amplify women’s voices and movements, donate to causes you believe in, volunteer in organizations, march in protests. In short: scream. With whatever voice you’ve got.
I don’t want to have to write the same blog next year.