16 days of activism for VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls); More relevant today than ever!
Currently, a remarkable one in three women has experienced abuse in their lifetime according to the UN. What’s more, an England and Wales Crime report estimated that 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse in the year up to March 2020 and 84% of all rape and sexual offences victims were indeed women.
These are not merely statistics and numbers, they reflect real lives. The tragic cases of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman represent an alarming epidemic of violence against women here in the UK.
The period between the 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls or VAWG), and the 10 December (Human Rights Day), marks the annual UN campaign of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV).
This year’s theme is “orange the world: end violence against women and girls now”, which is dedicated to drawing attention to the plight of women and girls globally and demanding urgent action to combat gender-based violence.
The significance of these 16 days is not to be underestimated, today more than ever we need to stand up for the often forgotten 50% of the world’s population that are women and girls. With this campaign, Islamic Relief UK aims to highlight some of the shocking statistics, as well as address what Islamic Relief is doing to combat VAWG.
Globally the impact of gender-based violence is further exasperated by poverty and harmful cultural beliefs. It is important to note, however, that we remain in the midst of a shadow pandemic caused by Covid-19, with the potential of undoing years of progress in combating gender-based violence, girls’ education and preventing early and forced marriage.
Moreover, child and forced marriage continue to impact women and girls globally. A UNICEF report has revealed that 700 million women worldwide were child brides, a number projected to increase to 1.2 billion by 2050. Indeed, women who are married at a young age have a multitude of long-term effects, including the likelihood of dropping out of education and affecting their future life prospects. Others may fall pregnant, which has a dangerous impact on their undeveloped bodies. In fact, girls aged between 10-14 years face a higher risk of complications and death as a consequence of pregnancy than other women according to WHO statistics. Tragically, the Covid-19 pandemic has put a further 2.5 million girls at risk of underage marriage, which is the largest increase in child marriage in 25 years.
With regards to education, many young women and girls are still denied this fundamental right and today, there are an estimated 130 million girls not in education across the world. Devastatingly, it is estimated that 20 million young women and girls will be unable to return to education, due to strains of impoverished living conditions worsened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also a global cause for concern, as 200 million girls have undergone FGM across 30 countries, with 137,000 of those women and girls living here in the UK. Female genital mutilation can cause irreversible physical damage to the bodies of women, causing further complications to their reproductive health in the future, as well as psychological trauma. Islamic relief UK is working on the ground to combat harmful beliefs around FGM, like in Mali, where Islamic relief is working to help put an end to this practice. You can find out more about it here.
FGM, GBV, and early forced marriage are mistakenly attributed to teachings of the Islamic faith, when in reality, these are often caused by harmful cultural practices and even the implications of living in poverty. As a faith-based organisation, striving for ground-breaking humanitarian work, Islamic Relief is dedicated to addressing some of these misconceptions through the Islamic Gender Justice Declaration, aimed at highlighting the rights of women in Islam and changing the narrative of oppression and exclusion. The declaration affirms the God-given rights of all human beings and aims to bring together faith leaders, organisations, and individuals to stand firmly for gender justice.
There are approximately 2.1 billion Muslims in the world today and together, we have a responsibility to call out injustice, especially when falsely committed in the name of Islam. The Islamic Gender Justice Declaration, which clearly communicates the rights afforded to women and girls in the Islamic faith, will have a major impact on the fight to reduce VAWG in the countries that we work in and beyond.
Please keep an eye out on our social media channels for more content on the 16 days against VAWG, and to keep up to date with our latest programmes from the field.