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Op-Ed: U.S. Embassy Recognizes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

By U.S. Ambassador Perry L. Holloway

The world community joins us today, November 25th, in recognizing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).  It is a time to renew our commitment to end this scourge and to stand in solidarity with women and girls who have been victimized.  Millions of people across the world are rallying under the orange banner, chosen to symbolize our collective hope for a brighter future for all.  Orange lights will illuminate iconic landmarks from the historic ruins at Petra in Jordan to Niagara Falls in North America.

Following the IDEVAW, the U.S. Embassy will be participating in 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. The 16 Days of Activism is an opportunity for everyone to become involved in their communities and spread the important message that gender-based violence is never acceptable.  Launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the campaign, which concludes on Human Rights Day on December 10, demands decisive action from everyone— men and women, boys and girls, government officials and community leaders.

Gender-based violence comes in many forms, from intimate partner violence and rape and sexual assault to early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Each is a stain on our collective humanity, a barrier to peace and stability, and demands action by all of us to bring it to an end. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime, and one in five will experience rape or attempted rape. In some places, especially in conflict zones, these statistics are even higher. Such violence is not inevitable—and each of us can do something to stop it.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has remarked that “preventing and dealing with the effects of gender-based violence is a fundamental moral issue; it’s a basic question of right vs. wrong.  But it’s also about our collective security, so people who don’t get motivated by the moral issue or a sense of right and wrong at least hopefully can be motivated by some pretty practical choices, and by security – I mean, we have learned in painful and searing ways that gender-based violence can rip families apart, rip communities apart, and attack state structures. And too often, in too many countries, it perpetuates conflict and creates instability for generations.”

At a global level, the United States is working with the United Nations to end gender-based violence with the new 2030 Agenda. We are pleased with the adoption of an Agenda that emphasizes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as both a goal in its own right, and as a cross-cutting issue that we must address if we are to achieve any of our development goals.  From Berbice to Beirut, the United States is committed to making a difference by raising awareness of gender-based violence, educating policymakers on the issue to increase legislative support, training service providers to better address the needs of survivors, and working to increase justice and accountability.  We fund projects that provide safe spaces and vocational training for survivors, and work to mobilize religious, business owners, and community leaders to end different forms of gender-based violence.

We all can take action in our own lives to end gender-based violence. We can support survivors by listening to them and believing in them. We can educate men and boys to support women and girls and stand up to violence. As First Lady Michelle Obama said, “think about the needs of women and girls with every program you create, with every policy you craft, with every project you undertake.”

Please join us and the international community in commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the 16 Days of Activism that follow. We all must work together—the international community, governments, multilateral organizations, private sector companies, and grassroots-level advocates to address and prevent violence from occurring any longer. Together we can, and will make a difference.