In this morning’s paper, I read about a gang rape of a 7-year-old girl in India, about an 8-year-old girl in Yemen who died after the wedding night with her husband five times her age, and about rapes in an asylum accommodation in Sweden.
Violence against women is a worldwide pandemic – it crosses every social and economic class, every religion, race and ethnicity. At least one out of every three women worldwide have experienced violence during their lifetime.
We in Zonta International cannot accept this – we need to use all our energy to eradicate violence against women locally and internationally through service and advocacy.
Internationally, we partner and support service projects with UNFPA to end early marriages in Niger and with UN Women to stop trafficking and unsafe migration in Nepal. Locally, we combat violence against women through a countless number of local service projects undertaken by Zonta clubs in all our countries.
We do it also through our advocacy by utilizing our consultative and participatory status at the United Nations and Council of Europe, through our Zonta Says NO to Violence against Women campaign, and through the many advocacy initiatives at club level, emphasizing the need to ratify CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention. Many steps have been taken and many successes achieved, but there is still much to do. This biennium, we encourage all clubs to work across district boundaries and engage in activities at national level. To achieve lasting change, we must influence legislation, encourage implementation, and follow up on the compliance. With members in 66 countries, we not only are advocates but also efficient watch dogs.
Violence against women is not a women’s issue. It is often about power and control. Empowering women is therefore a pre-requisite to end violence. But we cannot do it all by ourselves. We shall engage men as partners in our work to have a strong global voice which will ensure long lasting improvements.
Focusing on Sustainable Development Goal No 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, which includes ending violence against women and girls, is a priority this biennium. Let us continue to work towards the achievement of this goal – together we can achieve real change!
Sonja Hönig Schough
Zonta International President