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Published on November 27th, 2023

Speaking Out Against Gender-Based Violence is Everyone’s Responsibility

The violence men enact on women and girls is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why it is so difficult to make a difference when doing development work. The harm this violence causes to individuals, families, and communities disrupts any attempts to provide assistance that will have social, economic, political, or environmental consequences. Every year, we recognize the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence advocacy campaign that occurs in the holiday season, to remind us that during a time of family and celebration, there is also tragedy. That worldwide, of 736 million women, nearly one in three are affected by violence in their lives.

At this moment it is hard not to be impacted by the reminders of violence. While many of us reflect on the current conflicts in Sudan, Ukraine, Gaza and other places, conflict at various levels is occurring in more than 20 countries all over the world, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. This is what people universally think about when they hear the word violence. So, I think it is also important to raise awareness around the type of violence we may not reflect upon often, the violence that is so insidious that we may experience or encounter it daily and not address it because it may just be a part our social fabric.

While all violence must be condemned, violence against women and girls is particularly problematic because societies often shame the victims and normalize protecting the perpetrators with impunity. With no one to validate the physical, sexual, or psychological abuse suffered by women and girls, they are taught that either they deserve the abuse or that no one really cares. This is how violence against women and girls remains caught in a vicious cycle.

And because no one talks about it publicly, due to the stigma, it is hard to address it systemically and structurally. Recently, international development is taking on that challenge more aggressively by promoting mental health and psychosocial approaches and ways of managing stress. It has developed toolkits that examine GBV by sector, and the USG has launched a Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. Yet with all this attention on the topic, it never seems to be enough to bring about substantial change.

DT Global takes this topic seriously and will observe the 16 Days of Activism throughout our programming. Additionally, in 2024, we intend to conduct research that reviews our GBV work in the Pacific and pulls out best practices. We are hopeful that our findings will contribute long-term solutions to prevent harm and bring relief and support to GBV survivors.

Finally, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate courageous women working to combat this challenging scourge. One of my personal heroes is a woman named Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian Peace Activist and Nobel Prizewinner who heads the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa and is currently teaching at Columbia University. Her story is remarkable and can be best understood through the award-winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

One of the most important things she demonstrates is that, after surviving years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, Ms. Gbowee grew stronger. She went back to school and studied Peacebuilding. She then channeled what she learned as a survivor to helping others do the same, at first locally by supporting survivors in her community, then nationally by helping to establish peace in Liberia and the region, and eventually internationally by speaking out against gender-based violence. Let her efforts be a guiding light to encourage all of us to do the same.