We can be so inundated with causes and statistics and pleas to “work for change” that we begin to tune out important messages.
I get it. And I’m guilty of it.
The internet is a noisy place. Some of the volume is just time-wasting distractions of little consequence. But there are certain areas where the volume needs to be turned up louder.
Violence against women is one of those areas.
Consider just a few shocking statistics (sourced from UN Women) related to violence against women:
- As many as 1 in 4 women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy which increases the likelihood of having a miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion.
- In India, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders in 2007.
- Women and girls comprise 80% of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79%) trafficked for sexual exploitation.
- Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experience female genital mutilation/cutting.
- Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.
- Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
These numbers are so big, so hard to comprehend, and usually feel so far removed from our every-day lives that it’s easy to brush over them, shake our heads *tsk*, mumble under our breath how horrible it all is, and then move on.
But what about those 60 million child brides? What if just one of them was your flesh and blood sister or your daughter – just a scared little girl, not physically or emotionally ready to bear the child she’ll likely be pregnant with within the year?
What about the hundreds of thousands of women raped as a tactic of war? If you knew just one of them how would your stomach turn for the evil of it all and how consumed might you become with finding her a safe place and a hope for a better future?
“Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.” -UN Women
Let. Me. Say. That. Again.
Cancer + Malaria + Traffic Accidents + War combined are not as big a threat to women as the possibility of suffering under physical or sexual violence.
This is happening in refugee camps and in schools, in the workplace and in homes. This is happening in villages and in skyscrapers. This is happening at the hands of husbands and strangers, “friends” and fathers.
Violence toward women is said to be the most pervasive human rights violation today.
What are we going to do about it?
There are no easy answers, but we have to start by recognizing that this is an epidemic and it’s not okay to keep looking away.
For those of you that have time and want to learn more, I want to share the following video with you by AlJazeera News called 101 East: Battered and Bruised in Papua New Guinea. It’s a compelling 25-minute report highlighting domestic violence in PNG where 2 out of 3 women have experienced physical abuse. Culturally, it’s considered acceptable in this patriarchal, tribal setting where even polygamy is prevalent. And although PNG is among the worst statistically for violence against women worldwide, these types of issues are unfortunately not isolated.
In places like PNG, age-old belief systems dictate these heart-breaking views on women, and they will not be changed overnight. But friends, this is the sort of thing worthy of our attention, our prayer, and our voice.
If you’d like to explore more about violence against women or get involved through advocacy or giving, here are a few organizations to get you started:
Obviously there are many, many more organizations working for change in this area. If you work with one or would like to recommend one, please do so in the comments.
More importantly, will you pray with me for our sisters who are suffering?
p.s. This post is part of 31 Days of Women Empowering Women, as well as part of a larger movement of writers all over the world joining in with The Nester in writing everyday for the month of October. See hundreds of incredible #31Days projects here.