According to the World Health Organization, 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.
Conflict and post-conflict situations can not only exacerbate ;existing violence, but heighten threats of new forms of violence that women and girls face.
Survivors and activists around the world are striving to reduce this violence and increase understanding in their communities of the negative effects it has on society as a whole. This involves ending abuse, protecting women’s rights and playing a crucial role in building peace.
For this year’s annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence – a global campaign that runs from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to Human Rights Day – we want to ensure these women’s voices, and their efforts to stop such violence and build peace, are heard.
Join us and share their stories of creating positive change.
Survivors of Boko Haram violence
Thousands of women and girls in northeast Nigeria have been abducted, held captive, raped, forced into marriage with Boko Haram fighters and subjected to other forms of violence, such as forced labour and physical and psychological torture.
For those who escape captivity, the ordeal is not 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.
The above video shares the incredible stories of the women and girls who are working hard to rebuild their lives after escaping Boko Haram captivity.
Since 2017, together with our local partners, we have reached over 19,000 people through our work. Our focus has been to empower women and girls to take back control of their lives, help others in the same situation and contribute to rebuilding their communities.
Tackling widespread violence in Tajikistan
50% of women in Tajikistan are thought to be regularly subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence by their husbands or in-laws.
“Women have a low status in Tajik society,” says our Tajikistan Project Manager Shahribonu Shonasimova. “Practices such as early marriage, polygamy and weak protections for women in terms of divorce and property rights continue to undermine women’s rights.”
This mistreatment leaves younger women feeling as though they have no worth in the household or society. Through our ‘Living with dignity’ project (‘Zindagii Shoista’ in Tajik), women and their communities are finding a way out of the violence.
Working in four villages in the districts of Penjikent and Jomi, the project sought to create a social and economic environment that enables women to enjoy greater protection from sexual and gender-based violence, with a particular focus on domestic violence.
The project had lifechanging results for the women and families involved. Among those who took part, the percentage of women who reported experiencing emotional, sexual or physical violence fell from 64% to 33%, and the levels of depression halved among the women and men.
Violence against women and girls remains a widespread and critical concern in Tajikistan, with long-term damaging consequences for individuals and the wider society. The results of the Zindagii Shoista intervention are optimistic and have laid the groundwork for increasing prevention efforts on this issue not only in Tajikistan, but the wider region.
Yet more still needs to be done to better understand and address violence against women with disabilities, who face even higher rates of violence due to discrimination and stigmatisation. This reduces their educational and economic opportunities, and therefore their independence. Women whose children have disabilities also face increased abuse and isolation, because of their caregiving responsibilities and financial dependency on spouses and in-laws.
"I got involved in the business development and behavioural change sessions. They not only helped me to understand how to create a healthier family environment but also how I can financially help my family by starting a business,” Salima tells us.
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.
Together with our partners Cesvi, Farodis, Zanoni Sharq and Development and Prosperity (ATO), we have produced a workshop manual designed for men and women, which aims to promote harmony within families and reduce violence. This manual can be used by anyone wishing to look at a peacebuilding approach to tackling violence.
Violence against women is not inevitable. We can all play our part and raise the voices of survivors.