Girls’ Globe is Leaving No One Behind

This year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign has focused on the fact that we must ‘Leave No One Behind‘ if we’re to eradicate or even reduce the ongoing violation of rights that continues to occur all over the world.

For me, personally, Girls’ Globe is a true example of leaving no one behind.

It is a pertinent and powerful platform which brings women, girls and men together and amplifies their voices, stories and perspectives. It is a place to raise awareness and share experiences. It is a place where all women have a voice and all girls have an opportunity. It’s about young people – of all genders, origins, backgrounds and beliefs – collaborating to create content with the power not only to inform ordinary global citizens, but to influence policy and decision makers.

‘Leaving No One Behind’ is the universal principle at the core of the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It ensures that every citizen of every country in every corner of every community is included in the plight to implement the 17 Global Goals and achieve results beyond the targets and indicators. It has become a rallying cry on global, regional and national platforms.

Our mothers, sisters and daughters have lived in a world where sexual and gender-based violence were regular occurrences and socio-culturally acceptable norms, especially when between man and wife. Our women and girls have been abused, tortured, humiliated and violated through a politically endorsed, socially accepted and unjustly oppressive social system called patriarchy. This system oozes inequality and unfairness and inflicts everlasting damage on the world. As a result, women continue to face physical, emotional and mental abuse because structural, systematic abusive behaviours towards them continue to go unpunished.

Many communities – previously and currently underserved and marginalized – have been systematically oppressed and deliberately excluded due to neoliberal policies, and well…patriarchy. Women and children face the biggest burden of social segregation and political manipulation. Therefore, prioritizing the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable, and putting these populations first, is vital in tackling issues like gender based violence.

Women around the world face similar issues and challenges, and women understand what needs to be done to overcome them, although in many cases they lack the resources, opportunities and support to shape the world they live in. Girls’ Globe is about partnership. It is about fostering bonds and building a network of strong and capable women who carry the voices of their peers, community members and families with them in their advocacy. This creates a unique opportunity for collaboration, communication and connection, just what the 2030 Agenda needs to capitialize on in order to be successful.

Let’s be honest. Many countries are, at this very moment, struggling to meet the goal of leaving no one behind. Some might not even have achieved the expected progress when conducting their five-year monitoring and evaluations review in a few year’s time.  However, it is worth the effort required. Leaving no one behind requires commitment from public, private and civil society sector on national, regional and global levels.

Girls’ Globe is publishing opinions and ideas on tackling gender-based violence from our global network of bloggers and organizations during each of the 16 Days of Activism. We’re also crowdfunding to be able to continue to raise the voices of girls and young women in 2018 – voices like Zanele’s. Donate today and help us to continue building a safer, more equal world. 

Here’s How We Combat GBV: Part 1

Children, adolescents and women remain disproportionately affected by violence and abuse. Throughout the Global Goals and various other strategies, declarations and resolutions, the advancement of women is said to be a priority as an effort to address historically inherited systematic inequalities.

However, it seems to me that there are still great challenges in effectively implementing the instruments aimed at addressing women’s rights and gender equality, and achieving broader transformative goals.

Here are 5 things I believe must be done to tackle and progressively eliminate gender-based violence against women, girls and children:

  1. Political Representation, Decision-Making and Implementation

Firstly, we must increase, strengthen and advance women’s political representation, as well as their involvement, engagement and participation in decision-making on women’s issues. The more women there are to make decisions on behalf of women, children and families, the more likely it is that needs will be adequately addressed. The likelihood of implementation (with steadfast accountability) also increases. Secondly, there needs to be better coordination and mobilization of resources to ensure that implementation of grassroots programs and activities takes place and targets and results are achieved.

  1. Give Women a Voice and Choice on Women’s Bodies

Who knows the needs of women? Women do, of course. It is pivotal to increase female representation in policy and legislative environments. Girls and women need to be given seats at all tables, spaces on all platforms and opportunities through all channels to air their views and better shape the choices and decisions about their bodies and lifestyles.

What if every nation had a Women’s Party – dedicated not only to advocating for issues affecting women and holding government and stakeholders accountable, but also to represent the views and voices of women from all backgrounds, origins, social and economic classes. Would that make a difference? I believe that it would. Women should make up the majority, not men, when it comes to addressing women’s health issues. Last time men spoke on behalf of women, we were rewarded with patriarchy, which will take years, if not decades to dismantle. The only way to its dissolution is to put women first and at the centre of development.

  1. Prioritize and Invest in Family Planning and Women’s Health

Family planning saves lives and access to safe and voluntary family planning is a human right. The International Conference on Populations and Development (ICPD) recognizes “the right of men and women to be informed to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice”. When society fails to recognize this right, it should constitute a grave violation of human rights and be treated as a form of abuse. Once women are granted the opportunity to raise their voices to address the concerns, barriers and challenges they face in accessing information, healthcare facilities and services, they are better able to make their own unique choices to improve their lives so they enjoy a higher quality of life.

  1. Invest More in Education, Information and Advocacy

Everyone needs access to information and education on the issues that affect them. When an individual is educated, they have the ability to make informed decisions for themselves, but also to inform others around them. I think we need campaigns not only on specific days of the year such as International Day of the Girl Child or International Women’s Day or even 16 Days of Activism on Gender Violence. These campaigns need to be year around, because women suffer every second of every day.

Increasing visibility of campaigns targeted at socially uplifting communities needs to be prioritized in urban and rural areas alike, including and not limited to having campaigns in places most frequently visited by young people, where they are at risk of victimization and abuse, such as pubs and night clubs, schools and neighborhoods with little resources and protection.

  1. Address Injustice in the Justice System

We need to strengthen our justice systems to better handle and respond to gender-based violence related crimes, victimization and decision making. There also needs to be an increased number of females working on gender-based violence and sexual violence cases to assist females and ensure their health and well-being is prioritized. On the other side of the law, I believe that there needs to be a serious re-evaluation of sentencing criteria. Perpetrators of sexual violence, or any form of gender-based violence, should be held accountable for any kind of torment to women’s bodies. There must be no more leniency for members of society who threaten the privacy, confidence and enjoyment of life of others. We need to speak up and stand up against injustice, in all its ways, shapes and forms.

*Read Part 2 of Zanele’s post HERE!*

Girls’ Globe is publishing opinions and ideas on tackling gender-based violence from our global network of bloggers and organizations during each of the 16 Days of Activism. We’re also crowdfunding to be able to continue to raise the voices of girls and young women in 2018 – voices like Zanele’s. Donate today and help us to continue building a safer, more equal world. 

Shattering the Silence on Violence Against Women

I had the honor of being part of the Digital Media Lounge during the Social Good Summit 2017. The day-long event touched on several topics in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals, from universal healthcare to violent extremism to climate change.

The panel that struck me the most was Shattering the Silence: Gender-Based Violence Solutions with ElsaMarie D’Silva and Ilwad Elman. ElsaMarie is the Founder & CEO of Red Dot Foundation, also known as Safecity  a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since its launch in December of 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal. Women can use it to report attacks and instances of sexual harassment anonymously and mark the spot where they happened on a map. Ilwad is the Director of Programs & Development at the Elman Peace & Human Rights Center. Through the center, she co-founded the first rape crisis center for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Somalia.

The panel was moderated by Daniela Ligiero, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Together for Girls, a public-private partnership dedicated to ending violence against children, with a focus on sexual violence against girls. The global partnership includes five UN agencies, many private sector organizations, and the governments of the United States and Canada, along with more than 20 other governments in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. All of these partners work together to generate comprehensive data and solutions to this human rights issue.

The panel focused on how silence is one of the biggest contributors to gender-based violence. According to Daniela, approximately one third of women and girls experience sexual violence and less than 50% of them tell someone about it. Furthermore, less than 2% of the victims get services. Ilwad’s words resonate:

“Silence on the issue is criminal…This is the most endemic situation in the world today”.

She told the audience that in Somalia, women are being jailed for talking about rape. Women are being silenced on the issue by their own governments and activists are being targeted for fighting for women’s rights. This is why ElsaMarie’s Safecity app is so important; it provides a safe space for victims to report their experiences and gives them the courage to speak up. Part of the solution is to stop being silent:

“If we don’t acknowledge it, it never happened. Don’t pretend it doesn’t happen. Make it an issue that it’s not taboo”.

We must report and document these stories so the world can see it’s a real global epidemic and we can use the information to make a change in our communities.   

Despite the darkness of the panel’s topic, it ended on a positive note. The panelists expressed their hope for the future, reassuring the audience that change is possible and we can stop violence against women and girls.

These amazing women are already doing their part by promoting advocacy and speaking up for themselves and others. They are an example of how women can lift each other up and stand up for each other in the face of adversity.

There’s a Chinese proverb I learned during this panel that says: “When sleeping women wake, mountains move”. Let’s wake up, speak up, and move some mountains.

World Peace Requires the Eradication of Male Dominance

We live in a world dominated by men, characterized by patriarchal structures and a dangerous macho culture.

In this era of Donald Trump, who rules the largest country in the Western world with his perceived superiority and recklessness, condoning sexual and racial violence; Kim Jong-un, who controls his country with an iron fist, with inhumane policies and practices, and threatens the world with nuclear attacks; Vladimir Putin, who is often depicted half-naked with a gold chain displaying his muscles, continues to rule a country without consideration of all people’s human rights; Xi Jinping, who is leading the Chinese quest of economic world domination; Jacob Zuma, the polygamist South African leader who has faced rape charges and corruption allegations; and Nicolas Maduro, who is leading a country of turmoil, stripping it of democratic institutions and people’s freedom – this world does not feel like a safe place.

Our world today is not a peaceful place.

In 2015, United Nations Member States, run by 193 world leaders, agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these goals are reached, we would see an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. These goals are ambitious. Some say they are unrealistic, and some say they are doable – if we work together. These goals are very much interlinked and they cannot be reached without working towards a peaceful world. Goal 16 specifies the world leaders’ ambition to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.

In order for us to meet these goals, collaboration is a must – yet, many of the world’s most powerful leaders seem to be unable to do just that. Furthermore, the men I listed above are a few of the world leaders who are enabling harmful environments that discriminate against girls and women, leading to impunity of the attacks of gender based violence in most parts of the world. Many of these men are neglecting the harmful effects of climate change. And a few of these men are threatening world peace in it’s totality.

For far too many people around the world, peace is not a given.

In 2015 the world was met by a storm of humanitarian emergencies, with the number of people displaced at an all time high – with new political and natural disasters on the rise today. It feels like we have jumped back to the Cold War, with a threat of a nuclear war hanging over our heads. The trends of closing borders is threatening people’s lives as they seek refuge and safety and the acts of terrorism continuously bombard our news feeds. Violence is also a threat to the lives of girls and women daily, as gender based violence, including domestic violence, is a global epidemic.

The culture of male dominance is a threat to our security and a threat to peace.

For us to meet the Global Goals and for us to see an end to war and violence, we need more women leaders in politics around the world and we need more politicians who listen to women and girls. Thankfully the grassroots, national and global movements for equality and peace are on the rise – and you can be a part of them.

Girls’ Globe works to create a sustainable world, free from any discrimination, inequality and violence, enabling all girls and women to live up to their fullest potential, in peace and solidarity – by creating a platform for the voices of girls and women to be heard. We need your help to continue to keep our work going.

Donate to Girls’ Globe today!