Politics of Poverty

Front and center in 2016: Violence against women

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Oxfam kicks off global campaign to end to violence against women and girls.

If 2016 has taught us anything (and boy, has it taught us a lot) it’s that violence against women and girls is a global injustice that occurs in every country, even at remarkably high rates in the United States of America.  It happens everywhere, and can be committed by anyone — by a police officer in his patrol car, by a college swimming star behind a Dumpster, and has even been bragged about by the future President of the United States . The list goes on and on.

Last week Oxfam launched a new global campaign  to eliminate violence against women and girls, and it couldn’t happen at a more pertinent time. We hope to bring greater political pressure to bear on the issue, and provide women with the tools and voice to demand changes to laws and norms that have led to such high instances of this injustice around the world. As Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s Executive Director, declared, “Our campaign will see us stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the efforts of women and men around the world already engaged in this struggle. We will support women’s rights organizations, especially in the global south, which are already challenging harmful social norms. We will organize.”

As an organization that believes that trampling of rights and poverty go hand in hand, organizing an entire campaign calling for women’s rights to be protected and respected makes perfect sense. Although this campaign is being led by and focused in developing countries we work in around the world, including Guatemala, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Zambia, it is important for us to acknowledge how prevalent an issue this is in the United States as well.

Several stories of violence against women and girls in the US have gone viral this year (like the ones I’ve mentioned above), which is important because it draws attention to the issue. But the stories garnering media coverage or going viral only represent a tiny fraction of the cases that occur each singe  day in our communities.  According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 1 in 3 women in the US experience some sort of physical violence by their partner in their lifetime. The Coalition has also calculated that every 9 seconds, a woman in the United States is assaulted or beaten. Every single 9 seconds. In fact, in the time it took you to read to this point in this blog, 6 were assaulted in our country alone.

And violence against women intersects with other issues. For example, the vast majority of the transgender population that were killed this year in the US were women of color. Additionally, one of the concerns that anti Dakota Access Pipeline protesters have is that it’ll further increase the chances of violence against Native American women.

But 2016 didn’t just expose the prevalence of violence against women and girls in the United States – it showed us all that women are strong, they’re resilient and they fight back.

After the 2011 audio recording of now President-elect Donald Trump boasting about assaulting a woman back was released, thousands of women responded to author Kelly Oxford’s call to share stories on Twitter of sexual assault using the hashtag #notokay. One of the stated purposes of the Million Women’s March on Washington is to stand with sexual assault survivors. The woman who survived a rape by Brock Turner directed a powerful statement to her attacker, which she ended by her declaring her solidarity with all girls everywhere. Fortunately, this list goes on and on too.

So as 2016 comes to an end, my hope is that the spotlight on violence against women and girls in America grows and results in a new groundswell of attention and action.  I also hope that many of us here in America will stand up in our support of women and girls around the world and #SayEnough to violence against women and girls.

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