Gender-based violence is a global pandemic that cuts across all borders. In 1981, the United Nations declared November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In 1991, the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University first called for a global campaign of "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" -- the days between November 25 and International Human Rights Day on December 10.
In a video message, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer says, "This is not just a women's problem. Gender-based violence affects all of us -- women and girls, men and boys. Last year for the 16 days, we focused on the theme of what boys and men can do to address and prevent violence against women and girls. Their role is critical; their efforts continue to be essential if we are to stop this violence."
In 2011, we are focusing on the economic consequences of violence against women. Ambassador Verveer says, "...[Violence against women] is not only a human rights or moral challenge -- although it fundamentally is that, it also creates negative economic consequences and undermines productivity. It is a public health issue It is also a law enforcement issue -- a matter of justice. Violence against women and girls leaves all of our communities poorer. Businesses close, incomes shrink, families go hungry, and children grow up internalizing behavior that perpetuates the cycle of violence."
In the weeks ahead, U.S. embassies and others will be drawing public attention to the need to end gender-based violence. As Ambassador Verveer says, "The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence offer an opportunity to renew the commitment to free women and girls from the nightmare of violence, whether the abuse occurs in the home behind closed doors, or in the open fields of armed conflict. Governments have an obligation to implement and enforce laws. No country can progress by leaving half its people behind."
You can read Ambassador Verveer's full statement for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women here. As we recognize these 16 days, we must also remember to be vigilant for all 365 days of the year. In the comments section of this posting, please feel free to share how your community is addressing and preventing violence against women.