International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

It was November 25th, 1960 when the three Mirabal sisters and civil rights activists in the Dominican Republic were brutally and savagely assassinated on orders from the country’s dictator Rafael Trujillo. They were involved in trying to overthrow a fascist and repressive regime and represented a threat to the commanding dictator. These women followed their beliefs and convictions with bravery and fought against a dictator’s rule that they felt was wrong. Shortly after the dictator’s assassination in 1961, the murder of the Mirabal sisters was confirmed and recognised the dictator as its instigator.

Today, November 25th 2016 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – as designated in honour of the three Mirabal sisters by the United Nations in 1999 to commemorate their bravery and courage. Today is the ‘Orange Day’, in which governments, UN partners and especially individuals are asked to take action to raise awareness to prevent and stop violence against women and girls and marks the beginning of 16 days of activism to raise money to fight gender-based violence.

Violence against women remains as one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development. Women all over the world experience physical and sexual violence at alarming rates. The World Health Organisation (WHO)[1] reports that today about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical or/and sexual or/and psychological intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. In some countries, this percentage shoots up to 70% of women facing physical and/or sexual or/and psychological violence at least once in their lifetime. For instance, in the European Union alone, 45% to 55% of women have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15[2]. Most of the violence comes from an intimate partner, with 38% of murders of women at a global level committed domestically[3].

This data is based on reports from victims and provides the most accurate available estimates of such violence. However, the value of this data is limited, as a significant majority of violence cases is often not reported to the authorities especially in cases of domestic violence.

Violence against women and girls is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality and systemic gender-based discrimination. This historical and structural power imbalance between women and men exist both in the developed and developing world and at varying degrees across all communities. Ignoring these human rights violations poses serious consequences for current and future generations and for efforts to ensure peace and security and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. These effects of violence can remain with women for a lifetime, and can pass from one generation to another. Studies show that children who have witnessed, or been subjected to, violence are more likely to become victims or abusers themselves[4].

Not only does the right of women to live free of violence depend on the countries’ protection of their human rights and a strong chain of justice, which in most cases tends to condone abuse, but sadly, it mostly depends on social and cultural norms, prescribing men and women’s roles in society across public and private spheres of life, as well as across social, economic, cultural, and political rights. Such inequalities increase the risk of being abused, of violent relationships and of exploitation, besides accentuating women’s low status in society and the multiple disparities between women and men.

For an effective response to this violence, different sectors in society must work together to remove structural barriers to gender equality and women’s empowerment. This is needed to address the structural foundations of gender-based inequality.

Women are key contributors to a country’s economy, whether in businesses, as entrepreneurs or employees, or simply by doing work at home. Investing in women’s economic empowerment is the first step towards gender equality.  This should be done across all sectors and at all levels and stages of their lives. Without access to education, a girl’s future fades away, without proper health programmes, rates of maternal and child survival are low while rates of AIDS and HIV raise tremendously and without access to finance, women entrepreneurs cannot boost their businesses and become financially independent.

 “Progress is not possible without investing in women and girls. They are our future and constitute half of any society’s promise and resources. The Sustainable Development Goals won’t be achieved without the contribution of women and girls. We want a Planet 50-50 by 2030 and we need to step it up for gender equality” Clara Anyangwe, UN Women Country Representative, Malawi.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Let’s not limit it to today. Let’s end discrimination and violence against women and girls once for all and let’s make it last forever.


  • If men and women played an identical role in labour markets, as much as USD 28 trillion, or 26%, could be added to the global GDP by 2015.
  • An analysis of Fortune 500 companies found that those with the greatest representation of women in management positions delivered a total return to shareholders that was 34% higher than for companies with the lowest representation.
  • In the majority of countries, women’s wages represent between 70 and 90% of men’s, with even lower ratios in some Asian and Latin American countries.
  • As of 2011, 50.5% of the world’s working women were in vulnerable employment, often unprotected by labour legislation, compared to 48.2% for men. Women were far more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment in North Africa (55 versus 32%), the Middle East (42 versus 27%) and sub-Saharan Africa (nearly 85 versus 70 per cent).

Women bear disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work. Women devote 1 to 3 hours more a day to housework than men; 2 to 10 times the amount of time a day to care (for children, elderly, and the sick), and 1 to 4 hours less a day to market activities

Source: ‘Economic Empowerment of Women In Brief’, UN WOMEN


[1] ‘Violence against women’, Factsheet, WHO, November 2016. Available here:

[2] ‘Infographic: Violence against women’, UN Women. Available here:

[3] ‘Violence against women’, Factsheet, WHO, November 2016. Available here:

[4] ‘It is time for action to end violence against women: a speech by Lakshmi Puri at the ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly’, 18 June 2013 in Brussels. Available here:


Elisa Asmelash, Junior Energy Consultant@Revelle Group

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