Eliminating Violence Against Women

Acid Attack Survivor in Bangladesh

November 25, 2012

“Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.” 

- Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, “A World Free of Violence Against Women,” United Nations Global Videoconference, March 8, 1999

On November 25, we recognize International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an international campaign that extends through December 10, International Human Rights Day. This campaign makes the critical link that violence against women is a violation of human rights.

Women and girls in villages worldwide experience gender-based violence daily in the form of discrimination, dowry murder, acid attacks, honor killings, sexual harassment and abduction. According to the UN Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign, up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime – the majority by husbands, intimate partners or someone they know.

In Bangladesh, one such manifestation of gender-based violence is acid attacks, which are often used as a form of revenge for refusal of sexual advances, proposals of marriage and demands for dowry. Acid attack survivors not only have to endure the physical and psychological trauma of such violence, but are also ostracized and often have great difficulty finding work and getting married. 

In response to such attacks and other forms violence against women, in December 2010, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh partnered with the country's largest call-center company, Windmill Infotech Limited, to set up an official sexual harassment (known in Bangladesh as “eve teasing”) helpline, through which women in any part of the country can find a safe outlet to express their struggles, without fear of social judgment. It is the first support system of its kind in Bangladesh. The helpline can counsel once-silenced women and, when necessary, will immediately contact the appropriate authorities on behalf of the victim. In addition to providing over-the-phone support, the campaigns encourage parents, friends and victims themselves to seek immediate help following incidences of eve teasing, which can often lead to further harassment, assaults, abductions and acid burnings.

Empowering women is at the very heart of The Hunger Project’s strategy everywhere we work. Our programs support women in upholding their rights and taking control of their lives. We also work to sensitize entire communities – women and men – to the rights of women. It is not only imperative to end violence against women from a human rights perspective, but it is also essential to achieve the end of hunger and poverty in our world.

  • In India, The Hunger Project supports the political participation of women through capacity building workshops and educates women about their rights and responsibilities. We record instances of violence to shed light on such stories for government officials, media and police so all can recognize that reserving seats in the council for women will not suffice unless there is a safe environment.
  • In Bangladesh, our trained village leaders (or "animators") run campaigns against dowry, early marriage and violence against women. Last year, animators in Bangladesh organized 3,486 workshops and courtyard meetings on these issues, reaching 112,660 people.
  • In Africa, our Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP) is a series of workshops that focus on legal, civic and reproductive health rights as well as leadership skills. The "animators" then carry out community-based educational activities using drama, mini-lectures and discussions. These animators are also trained to provide counseling and distribute non-prescriptive contraceptives. In 2011, 60,536 women and men were trained in such workshops.
  • In Africa, more than 1.1 million people have participated in The Hunger Project's HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshop, which is conducted in local languages and combines clear, accurate information on HIV/AIDS with a campaign of action to transform gender roles and end harmful practices that sustain the epidemic. As a result, gender relations are being transformed, leading to fewer instances of domestic violence, more girls in school, and the abolition of harmful local practices, such as those that require a young widow to have sex with a village elder.
  • In Mexico, workshops on gender equality, self steem and human and women's rights support indigenous women in 19 communities in the state of Chiapas. This process requires bravery as the women break their traditionally male-dominated culture and stand up for their rights, even when some of them are experiencing domestic violence. These women shared that through this process, they have redefined the concept of partnership with their husbands, families and communities.

Stand with the girls and women who have been victimized by gender-based violence. Invest now to empower entire communities where women and girls can lead lives of dignity without fear of violence.

Photo: Acid victim Soniya Akhter Brishti shares her story on International Women's Day 2011