Jassy Watson lives in Australia. She is a mother of four, artist, environmental activist and organic gardener. She runs a small business ‘Goddesses Garden’ and is also studying Ancient History and Religion. Jassy has recently become WSF contact for local women’s circles in Australia.
Violence against girls and women is recognized as a major issue on the international human rights agenda. This violence includes a wide range of abuses, including trafficking in women and girls, rape, wife abuse, sexual abuse of children, and harmful cultural practices and traditions that permanently damage girls’ and women’s reproductive and sexual health. It is stated by UNwomen.org that in some countries, up to 7 out of 10 women will be beaten, raped, mutilated or abused in their lifetime.
To create a world where girls and women are safe from violence, we must, as presented by UNITE: STAND UP, SPEAK OUT and TAKE ACTION. I believe that Education and Empowerment are vital for women, not just the victims, to take these steps. Education needs to include all individuals, women, men and children alike, to raise awareness. It is up to national governments to provide resources, funding and support to those community and global organisations that are committed to implementing programs to assist those individuals who are victims of gender violence so that education and empowerment can be achieved.
Given that gender-based violence is so widespread, the lack of policy debate and decision making is alarming. This is not to say however that nothing has been done. In fact, since the 1970’s many global programs and national commitments have been put in place to address issues of violence against women and children. Some of the early milestones include the convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna (1983), UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993), UN Fourth Conference on Women, Beijing (1995) and more recently, The Council of Europe Convention on the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women which has been signed and supported by 25 countries. International Amnesty has worked with governments and community organisations worldwide for many years and organisations such as UNWomen, WFP, STOPVAW, WSF and V-Day (One Billion Rising) are all committed to putting an end to violence. In Australia, in 2011 the federal, state and territory governments with the help of Amnesty International, launched a comprehensive, nationwide plan to reduce violence against women and children. In addition, there are many milestones and organisations that I have not covered here.
Despite some progress and a number of national laws being changed around the world, legal authorities often still do not take appropriate action. Many women are not aware of their legal rights, and they fear if they speak up they will only be abused again or accused of a crime themselves, even though they are the victim. Many decide silence is best but this silence needs to be broken for change to come about.This is where education and empowerment are pivotal. Women need to be made aware of their legal rights, if any, and they need to feel empowered to take legal action. With the support from organisations such as these it is achievable. Once a woman stands up and says NO, others may choose to follow. A domino effect of empowered action, while not without challenges, it is certainly not impossible.
There are many other areas where education and empowerment can take place. For my family, it starts in the home. We say NO to violence, and we teach our children to say NO to violence. I raise my daughters empowered and I educate my sons that violence against girls and women is not only illegal but morally and ethically unjust and it is not in the spirit of the humane, just world that we want to create for our future generations. At times I feel like I am parenting against society, with so much violence surrounding us in our everyday lives by way of the media, in particular the news, movies and games. It is no wonder that violence remains so prevalent .
The psyche of humanity in most cultures has been infected so profoundly by thousands of years of war, domination, violence and greed that I doubt many see their acts of violence as wrong, it has become so normalised. As a result, generation after generation are brought up in a violent climate, which is only perpetuated by patriarchal government bodies, corporations and religious institutions who still, not only set out to control and dominate people, but our environment as well. The roots of violence are deep and the changing status of women in regard to the rise of patriarchy is complex. Carol Christ addresses some of these issues in her latest blogs.
To bring about an end to violence and to help create a safer world for girls and women requires a massive cultural shift and extensive programs worldwide to educate and empower. I sense that this is burgeoning, many of us do. Many may feel that the problem however is too large and overwhelming to bother trying to do anything to make a difference. But it’s not; subtle action is also required for the bigger actions to gain momentum. There are so many things you can do, starting by setting an example in your own home, support the cause and Say NO to violence against girls and women; break the chain and spread the word.
As a beginning, here is a petition that can be signed by you and shared with your friends to show your support for the cause. Just a small step like this can make a difference.