Today marks International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women and their achievements economically, politically and socially. It’s also a call to action to ignite and inspire change.
First celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911, IWD is now an official holiday in over 25 countries and celebrated with events held around the globe. Each year, the United Nations selects a theme for International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is ending violence against women.
Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Executive Director, at an IWD event held at the United Nations in NYC today, said:
“Violence against women is pervasive and knows no borders. It does not discriminate according to nationality, ethnicity, social class, culture or religion.
“…There can be no peace, no progress, no equality without women’s full and equal rights and participation. And there can be no gender equality without women’s realization. Women’s realization of their full reproductive rights, their right to sexual and reproductive health, are essential to the empowerment of women and to gender equality.”
As a domestic violence survivor, this is an issue dear to my heart. 1 in 4 women will face domestic violence in her lifetime. 85% of domestic violence victims/survivors are women. 1 in 5 women will be raped. Women contend with acid attacks, rape as a weapon of war, stalking, street harassment and sexual harassment.
Violence against women transpires globally. Jyoti Singh Pandey, Kasandra Perkins, Reeva Steenkamp, Cherica Adams, CeCe McDonald, Victoria Soto, Sita Rai, Savita Halappanar, and Steubenville all show the peril and prevalence of violence against women through domestic violence, rape and/or assault.
We must critique and denounce toxic hyper-masculinity and rape culture. We must lobby for legislation protecting domestic violence and rape survivors. We must speak out against victim-blaming and the stigma of domestic violence and rape. Gender equality belongs at the forefront of domestic and international policy.
Love should never hurt. Ever. No one should ever lay a hand on you. Ever. It’s not okay for men to catcall you or harass you as you walk down the street. You can never bring rape or sexual assault or domestic violence on yourself. Rapists and abusers are the ones to blame, not survivors.
So on this day to honor and celebrate women, let’s take a stand to combat violence against women. We will never achieve equality unless we fight to ensure women’s safety and bodily autonomy.
Sometimes it feels hopeless. But it’s not. We can stand together and we can make a difference. Justice and equality may appear out of sight beyond the horizon, but they are never out of reach.