International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2009

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November 25, 2009

It is estimated that at least one out of every three women worldwide have at some point suffered some type of physical or sexual abuse. Violence against girls and women is one of the most virulent and widespread violations of human rights in the world. This violence is not only limited to physical and sexual abuse, but also includes psychological and economic mistreatment as well. It knows no boundaries in terms of age, religion, race, culture, economic status, or geography.

Simply, violence-or the threat of it-is both a manifestation of women's subjugation, as well as a reinforcement of it. However, even in the bleakest circumstances, there are some rays of light. There are women, like Derare Hirpha, who are courageously overcoming violence inflicted upon them, and becoming effective leaders in their communities.

When Derare-an Ethiopian, 37-year-old married mother of six-was just a little girl, she endured almost unimaginable violence. One day, when she was walking home from school, a man abducted and raped her. According to the local culture, when a girl is abducted and raped, she must marry her abductor. For nearly twenty years, Derare's sole identity was exclusively that of wife to her abductor and mother to their children. Stolen from her were her childhood and dreams for the future.

However, in 2005, life began to change for Derare. It was then she became involved with The Hunger Project and was energized by the support, encouragement, training and access to microfinance offered to her. She says, "My heart started to shine again when the organization clearly stated its commitment in promoting gender equality through women's empowerment programs with a focus on its Microfinance Program for women."

While Derare cannot undo the past violence inflicted upon her, she is now no longer shackled by hopelessness and resignation. Today, Derare is a community leader and a successful entrepreneur, who can feed her family and send her children to school. She has made peace with her husband, who now respects her, supports her efforts to improve their family's life, and considers their household resources as their shared, common assets.

While the violence Derare endured was devastating, it did not break her spirit. With the support of The Hunger Project she was able to persevere and create the life she wanted for herself and her family.

On November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, The Hunger Project calls on both individuals and governments to: find inspiration in Derare's story-inspiration to take actions to prevent senseless acts of violence, as well as inspiration to support girls and women who have been victimized by gender-based violence. One action individuals can take is to support non-profit organizations which work to empower women and transform gender relations. Governments throughout the world must establish, implement and enforce legal frameworks to prevent and punish violence against girls and women, while at the same time creating laws and programs which empower and support girls and women.

Read more about Derare.

Support The Hunger Project's work to empower women.

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