"Every year, millions of women and girls are subjected to harmful traditional practices. Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting, with more than 3 million girls annually at risk of the practice. Over 60 million girls are child brides, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.3 million) and sub-Saharan African (14.1 million). Women who marry early are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might be justified in beating his wife."
Source: WHO, ‘Female Genital Mutilation’, Fact Sheet No. 241 (Geneva: WHO, 2008).
Recently, I got the opportunity to review Annual Report 2010 of the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. The fund has supported several programs around the world including Zambia, Guatemala, Egypt, Nepal, Peru, Cambodia, Republic of Congo, etc. that strive to end violence against women and promote gender equality.
I would like to share some best practices that I gathered from this report:
- Provide safe spaces for girls and women where they can:
- Share their feelings, their concerns and fears.
- Develop community mapping where they have every household data and highlight the areas in the community where there is heightened risk of gender-based violence. These maps are finally shared with the community leaders for further action.
- Learn from experienced women and gain confidence.
- Receive education on adolescent sexuality, human rights, how to challenge gender stereotypes, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
- Acquire vocational skills to improve their economic status.
- Engage boys and men in promoting gender equality by sensitizing them during the recreational activities and in the schools and universities.
- Involve traditional leaders in the campaign to promote gender equality as they are ones with the authority and people like to follow them.
- Sensitize the police and other law and order personnel so that they can deal with cases of gender violence with respect and sensitivity.
- Use media such as broadcasting radio programs that deal with gender related issues. These programs provide an open platform for groups of women in the villages to discuss the issues and relate them to their lives.
- Recognize those who excel in the process.
I am amazed how effectively these organizations have involved local leaders to lead the campaign to end the violence against women and as a result these communities, slowly but surely, are moving towards gender equality. Active participation of community leaders is crucial because they are ones who can develop locally based solutions which are culturally appropriate and sustainable.