(Or: how my brain just about nearly exploded)Over the last six months, I've done a lot of reading and research into Violence Against Women and Girls in the UK and overseas. Before I got involved in the Stop the Violence campaign, I knew that Violence Against Women and Girls existed, but I would never have known where to even start thinking about the scale of the issue. This is where I'm hoping I can help you.
Throughout my blog updates, I've tried not to overload you with numbers, statistics and case studies - my whole experience at the UN was completely overwhelming even before we start looking at all the information we were bombarded with on a daily basis.
However, one huge thing I have learnt from this experience is that people don't, and often won't, talk about Violence Against Women and Girls. This is something I want to change. I know it's completely overwhelming when you start to think about it, but if we support each other, I know we can do this.
It's really easy to get stats-blindness, for a number to become just that - just a number. But it's for that reason that I think the statistics are a great place to start.
(Hopefully you've kept reading this far and my numbers-chat hasn't completely turned you off. If you're still here, thank you for reading. Please read a little bit further.)
Over the last few weeks, there are some examples that have really stuck with me, which I would like to share with you.
- Globally, 1 in 3 women and girls will experience some form of violence during their lifetime.
- More than 603 million women and girls live in countries where domestic violence is not a crime (that's nearly 1 in 5).
- In the USA every year, more than 80% 12 - 16 year old girls are sexually harassed or raped in or on their way to school, while in South Africa, 1 in 3 rapes of girls are perpetuated by a teacher.
- In the EU, 80% cases of violence against women will not be reported.
- The annual cost of dealing with violence against women in the EU is over 34 billion euros.
- Every day in the UK, 5 girls and young women are forced into marriage.
- In Nepal, more than 63% girls are married before they are 18 years old. 7% girls will be married before they are 10 years old. If her husband dies, the girl belongs to her husband's family. She is forced to wear white and is prohibited from attending festivals or family gatherings. She will be given to her husband's brother, who can do whatever he wants with her.
- More than 40% widows are married before they are 18 years old. Most of these marriages are not registered because the girl is underage. When she becomes a widow, she will not be eligible to receive any benefits or support because her marriage is not registered.
- 40-50% women in the EU experience some form of abuse in the workplace.
- Many refuges in the UK can't take women and girls associated with gangs because of the risk to the refuge - they do not have bullet-proof glass and women are often "planted" in refuges by gangs to try and find victims.
So what? What can we do with this information? There are lots of big, complicated things you could try - writing to your local MP; volunteering with a women's support group; going to the UN is pretty huge...
Or there are smaller, simpler things; things we often forget can still make a difference.
What am I going to do? I want to make it ok to talk about violence against women and girls, so I'm going to talk about it and I'm going to encourage other people to talk about it.
So, if you've read this far, thank you. Now here's your challenge. Go and tell someone your thoughts about Violence Against Women and Girls. Share the numbers. Find some new numbers. Blog about it, tweet about it, tell someone over a cup of coffee or lunch. Let's start a conversation.
And check out WAGGGS' Stop the Violence Campaign.