5 Ways to reduce violence against women and girls

Save the Children

Photo credit: Save the Children

As you may have learned from this year’s International Women’s Day, gender-based violence is one of the largest and most widespread issues in global public health today. Though it has only recently been considered as a health concern, it deserves global attention alongside HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.

But now that the big day is over, one question remains: How can we can help continue to reduce violence against women and girls in the developing world before International Women’s Day 2014?

Michael Elliott, President and CEO of ONE, Christy Turlington Burns, Stella Mukasa and Ravi Verma discussed how the developing world can achieve greater gender equality at a panel discussion hosted by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Here are the top 5 things the world must do to reduce violence against women & girls:

1. Provide women with access to legal representation and opportunities to pursue justice against perpetrators of violence through the formal legal system

2. Promote gender equality in schools and widen access to education for girls. It has been proven time and time again that girls enrolled in school are less likely to be married early and become pregnant. If that weren’t reason enough, girls that obtain higher levels of education are more likely to find employment and become empowered as a result of their financial contributions to the family and community

3. End forced early marriage and premature pregnancy, the leading cause of death of girls between 15 to 19 years of age. With more than 142 million girls expected to marry before they turn 18 over the next decade, programs like Apni Beti Apna Dhan (ABAD), which offer conditional cash transfers to incentivize families to delay their daughter’s marriages, will likely help reduce arranged marriages and allow girls to develop both physically and mentally before marriage and child-birth

4. Bring greater attention to violence that is perpetrated by a partner or spouse. Stella Mukasa, Director of Gender Violence and Rights at ICRW, told the story of a woman who was forced by her husband to breast feed his dog’s litter. When she sought help from the community, her claim was ignored because abuse from a spouse was not considered to be a violation of a woman’s rights

5. Revise marriage laws that are institutionally biased against women, particularly those that deny women custody over their children, inheritance, and land rights in cases of death, separation or divorce. The revised national constitution in Kenya is one example that has brought about unprecedented rights for women, including the right to oversee property-related transactions, manage family land and resources and retain a portion of land to live on and cultivate if widowed or divorced

Now that we’ve outlined the challenges, here’s how you can help. Join these NGOs in their fight against gender violence and act as a mouthpiece for their mission:

Join Every Mother Counts, an organization founded by Christy Turlington Burns, that aims to end preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth around the world

Support ICRW, an organization whose mission is to empower women, advance gender equality, and fight poverty in the developing world. Their Passports to Progress Series, a group of events that invites a diverse panel of leading experts in the fields of gender violence, human rights and development, is a great way to learn more about the issue.

Sign Education Envoy’s petition to ban discrimination against girls.

Join Save the Children’s Good Goes campaign, which fights for child survival.

Just as we believe that where you are born shouldn’t dictate whether you live or die, ONE is equally adamant that your gender shouldn’t determine whether or not you are able to reach your full potential.