One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime – a global epidemic that has a devastating impact on the lives of women, girls and their families.
For women and girls living in conflict and post-conflict situations, existing violence can become worse along with threats of new forms of violence.
While violence continues, there are many stories of survivors of violence and activists around the world working to build understanding in their communities and bring an end to abuse.
We’re joining the global Orange the World: #HearMeToo campaign starting on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to share their voices and make sure their efforts to stop the violence are heard.
So join us to share the stories of women and men who have overcome violence and conflict and used their experience to create positive change in their communities.
Together, we can end violence against women and girls.
Survivors of Boko Haram violence
Thousands of women and children have been kidnapped by Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria over the last decade, facing the threat of violence and sexual violence.
For those who escape captivity, the ordeal is not always over as survivors often face suspicion, rejection and even violence from their families and communities. Together, survivors are tackling the stigma and recovering from their experiences.
#HearMeToo Dooma’s story
Dooma was abducted from her village by Boko Haram insurgents as a young girl. Dooma, among many other kidnapped girls, was shared among Boko Haram fighters and forcefully married. Dooma and her two children, one of whom she lost to malnutrition, lived in captivity for three years.
One afternoon, Dooma saw an opportunity for escape. She started running and found herself at a camp for internally displaced persons.
Returning to a new community was difficult, but Dooma has since regained her self-esteem, and now speaks out for survivors like herself, after joining our community dialogue sessions.
When I came earlier, I didn’t have the esteem and courage to mingle with my peers. Today, I am an example to others and I try to use my experience to enlighten those who discriminate against survivors and returnees like me.
Women and men tackling violence together
It is not possible to truly understand the role played by gender in conflict and peace without bringing men – as men – into the analysis, and in particular examining men’s relationships to different forms of violence, both as perpetrators and as victims.
Henri Myrttinen, Head of Gender and Peacebuilding, International Alert
#HearMeToo Abdul’s story
Two of Abdul's young daughters, one eleven and one thirteen, were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in 2014. Abdul hopes every day that his daughters may return home, and has felt so distraught as to contemplate suicide.
Abdul continues to await the return of his two daughters, and in the meantime lives in an internally displaced persons camp. Through community dialogue sessions, Abdul has learned to forgive Boko Haram. He continues to support Boko Haram survivors within his community and works to challenge the stigma they face.
"We must forgive the past in the interest of peace and development. As a father and a community member, I’ve to play my part in helping those returning from Boko Haram captivity to be reintegrated back into the community without stigmatisation and rejection. This will include my girls when they do finally return. "
Tackling widespread violence in Tajikistan
50% of women in Tajikistan have experienced violence from their husbands or in-laws, including physical, psychological, economic and sexual.
In Tajik society, women do not have an equal social status to men. Women are expected to marry in their early 20s and to obey their in-laws and husband. This family dynamic often leads to mistreatment and to younger women feeling as though they have no worth in the household or society. Through our Zindagii Shoista ‘Living with dignity’ project, women and their communities are finding a way out of the violence.
#HearMeToo Salima’s story
Salima and her children lived in a violent home environment for years. Her husband was abusive to her and had a drinking problem, which worsened as tensions rose due to financial instability.
Constant arguments meant I always felt threatened and it was impossible for my children to do their homework or even simply enjoy evenings at home. I know at times they wished to leave and never come back again. I felt it all.
Salima and her family attended our Zindagii Shoista workshops, which have been designed to help families resolve their conflicts through discussion and understanding. At the same time, women are given independence through learning how to set up and manage their own small business, changing the family dynamic.
Since joining Zindagii Shoista, Salima has started her own cattle breeding business and now works together with her husband to sell dairy, wheat, and vegetable products. Her husband has stopped drinking and understands how his actions were hurting his family.
I would love to see this work expanded to involve young boys and girls because they will establish families in the near future and should be prepared to respect and 'live with dignity' with one another.
What works to tackle violence against women and girls?
Zindagii Shoista was a project funded through DFID’s What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls – a global project to find out how the violence epidemic can be stopped.
The project had lifechanging results for women and their families living through domestic violence. For families and communities who joined the project, the percentage of Tajik women who reported experiencing violence fell from 64% to 34%.
Together with our partners Cesvi, Farodis, Zanoni Sharq, Development and Prosperity (ATO) we have produced a workshop series designed for men and women which aims to promote harmony within families and reduce violence.
Our new manual can be used by anyone wishing to look at a peacebuilding approach to tackling violence. It is designed to be easily transferable to other environments.
#OrangeTheWorld and share the voices of survivors tackling violence
Violence against women is not inevitable. We can all play our part and raise the voices of survivors.