Voices Against Violence and Eileen Fisher
There was a lively audience assembled last week at the Eileen Fisher store in Soho, New York, for an important program presented by the Metro NY Chapter of UN Women about the urgent topic of ending violence against women and girls. Mary Luke, the chapter’s president, introduced the main speaker, Urjasi Rudra, a project manager at UN Women, who told the group of a major joint effort by UN Women and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (the Girl Guiding movement worldwide), called Voices Against Violence. The project, currently active in 35 countries, including the United States, is mobilizing and training youth to engage their peers to prevent violence against women and girls in their communities.
The statistics are alarming – globally, violence against women continues to impact one out of every three women and girls. Some research shows that one in four students in U. S. middle schools experience sexual harassment. The cost of violence against women is also extensive, amounting to 5.2 per cent of the global economy. However, Urjasi quoted figures that show how timely and well-coordinated investments can make a difference. For example, the US anti-violence law of 1994 saved $14.8 billion in direct costs of property loss, health care needs, policing and other services.
The joint project by UN Women and WAGGGS to end this violence started in 2014 with a $1 million grant from Zonta International and a goal of reaching young people in countries around the world through discussions, games and other teaching techniques using the Voices Against Violence curriculum. The project has engaged 28,000 young people and is estimated to have trained over 9,000 youth leaders. Their data showed that 98 percent of the participants had improved knowledge, awareness and attitudes as a result of participating in the course. VAV discussion techniques start with questions such as what is violence and what are the causes? Also, what can a community do about it and what other resources are available to survivors?
A second speaker, Ravi Karkara – who grew up in India and is the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary General to the UN and Deputy Director for UN Women – added valuable information on how UN Women tries to reach men and boys and challenge the patriarchal system that exists in so many global countries. Both speakers stressed that solutions must start early, with the family and in schools. One of the main organizers from the Metro NY Chapter said that she was passionate about promoting the program because one of her friends had been murdered by a partner.
Mary Luke ended the evening with an announcement about the NY Coalition for CEDAW, a local effort to pass a Women’s Bill of Rights in NYC. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has been ratified by 189 countries, with the United States being the only industrialized country among seven nations that have not ratified this important treaty. The NYC4 CEDAW coalition advocates for a comprehensive bill that would protect women’s rights in areas such as equal pay, reproductive rights, and freedom from discrimination – and violence.