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! 

Unlocking Technology’s Potential: the Social Good Summit 2017

Every September, the world’s leaders gather together at the United Nations to debate on the world’s most pressing issues and present their points of view to the world for a week. This year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is focusing on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which were adopted in 2015.  

One of the biggest events of the week is The Social Good Summit, which is held annually. It’s goal is to bring together a community of global citizens and progressive leaders to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. This year, the Social Good Summit will focus on how we can use technology to achieve these goals and make the world a better place. The Summit is particularly special this year because it’s the first global virtual summit exploring social innovation, disruptive technology, and the power of mobilizing networks to address some of today’s most challenging issues.

Since Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, the Summit will include a panel on Women in Activism with Carmen Perez, Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice. She is the co-founder of Justice League NYC and founder of Justice League CA, two state-based task forces for advancing criminal justice reform agenda. She has organized numerous national campaigns and protests, including Growing Up Locked Down conferences and the March2Justice. She’s currently the National Co-Chair of the Women’s March on Washington.

In total, the Summit selected 33 women to speak throughout the event, from artists to CEOs to activists. The fact that more than half of the speakers are women (there are 28 male speakers) already shows the UN’s commitment to gender equality by implementing this principle in their own event.

I’m certainly looking forward to what will be said throughout the Summit about how to achieve gender equality by 2030. Being able to hear from so many empowered women will surely be empowering to those of us in the audience who are at the beginning of our careers and trying to find a way to make a difference in the world. I’m looking forward to being inspired by these world leaders to do my part for my community.

If you’re interested in being part of the global conversation online, here’s the Facebook event

World Breastfeeding Week 2017 – Sustaining Breastfeeding Together

“Breastfeeding for me was synonymous to giving life” – Felogene, mother, Kenya

Breastfeeding is a core part of many new mothers’ lives, and it is an experience that is different for everyone. Yet the benefits of breastfeeding are universal and the barriers to breastfeeding are many, persisting across cultures and communities around the world. Women need partners to make breastfeeding work – partnerships ranging from close family to the health workforce, to workplaces and the public sphere. Furthermore, multi-level partnerships are necessary to ensure that breastfeeding is a central component in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

In line with the Sustainable Development Agenda, World Breastfeeding Week, led by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, covers four Thematic Areas, which are reviewed in detail in relation to essential partnerships and paired with key action points to help us all get engaged and working together to reach our common goals by 2030.

NUTRITION, FOOD SECURITY AND POVERTY REDUCTION

“In 2016, the United Nations placed nutrition at the heart of sustainable development by declaring 2016-2025 as the UN Decade for Action on Nutrition. Breastfeeding is a non-negotiable component of this globally intensified action to end malnutrition.” – writes Mia Ydholm.

SURVIVAL, HEALTH AND WELLBEING

“Breastfeeding is a fundamental driver in achieving the SDGs as it plays a significant role in improving maternal and child health, survival and wellbeing. One year into the implementation of the SDGs, we must work together to level the playing field.” – Every Woman Every Child.

ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE

“Like in so many other areas of our lives – especially as women – we are bombarded by marketing telling us how to look, how to behave and what life-changing decisions to make. Breastfeeding is not excluded from this. The detrimental environmental impact of breastmilk substitutes is a responsibility for all of us to bear – not mothers alone.” – writes Julia Wiklander.

WOMEN’S PRODUCTIVITY AND EMPLOYMENT

“Full equality will not be reached at home or in the workforce until men and boys globally take on 50 percent of the unpaid care and domestic work.” – MenCare

“The reason why I am breastfeeding is, first of all, because I can, and because there are so many benefits for my baby and for myself.” – Kristina, mother, Sweden

Girls’ Globe is committed to ensuring that all mothers have the information, support and protection they need to breastfeed, if they choose to do so. Throughout the month of August, we will be sharing posts, videos and more in line with World Breastfeeding Week’s main objectives. Find more on our campaign page and follow on social media with #WBW2017.