Women constitute roughly half of the global population, yet they are systematically abused, discriminated against, and excluded. One in three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Gender-based violence (GBV) online and offline, including sexual, physical, psychological, and economic harm, can preclude women and girls from receiving an education, inhibit their full civic and political participation, and cost them jobs or other opportunities later in life.
Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had devastating consequences for global populations, there has been an uptick in violence, particularly domestic violence, against women and girls, called the “shadow pandemic.” Women and girls from marginalized populations such as ethnic and religious minorities, indigenous women and girls, LGBTQI+ persons, women and girls with disabilities, and women and girls in fragile and conflict-affected states, experience gender-based violence at even higher and more alarming rates.
South Sudanese women have always been in the backseat when it comes to public life. Traditionally, men here do not allow women to exercise their rights. We are suppressed, our innate power is leashed.
Especially when it comes to politics, men see it as their birthright to take decisions on behalf of the country. By doing so they silence 50 per cent of this country’s population women and girls. I have faced those same challenges and battle the same cultural stereotypes every day.
The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence Against Women campaign is marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (25 November to 10 December 2020) under the global theme, “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect.” UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign is amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.
The campaign is part of UN Women’s efforts for Beijing+25 and building up to launch bold new actions and commitments to end violence against women at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico and France in 2021.
As countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified. In some countries, calls to helplines have increased five-fold In others, formal reports of domestic violence have decreased as survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels.
School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, forced marriage, and harassment.
In April 2020, as the pandemic spread across the world, the UN Secretary-General called for “peace at home”, and 146 Member States responded with their strong statement of commitment. In recent months 135 countries have strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to COVID-19. Yet, much more is needed.
Today, although the voices of activists and survivors have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored, ending violence against women will require more investment, leadership and action. It cannot be sidelined; it must be part of every country’s national response, especially during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.
For the 16 Days of Activism, UN Women handed over the mic to survivors, activists and UN partners on the ground, to tell the story of what happened after COVID-19 hit. Read and share stories, get inspired by activists who are making a difference every single day, and find out how you can take action.