Violence against Women

(Blog source copyright The YWCA of Great Britain)

Marcia Banasko

Personal Reflection on Violence against Women by Marcia Banasko, World YWCA Programme Associate

“Mummy are you ok?” I cried.

“Come on” She signed.

We walked out of the pub, down the street, past the church and up the hill home. Me trailing behind her and my younger sister in her arms. In the house, I sat on the floor and watched mum clean herself up. Black eye rising, bloody nose running and all the while I thought but why did he hit you mummy. I was maybe 5 years old. The man was my stepfather and this was one of the many times he hit my mother. One time I remember he rang the house drunk threatening to petrol bomb our home, mum gathered us five kids me, my three sisters and brother and off we ran out of the house down the street and to my mum’s friends house. The police later found my stepfather drunk out of his mind approaching the house with a petrol bomb; if we never left the house when we did, we would all be dead. This is a true story from my childhood and there are many people out there who are still living this nightmare everyday.

Violence against women takes a variety of forms physical, sexual, psychological or financial and takes place in both private and public spheres. In England and Wales, two women a week, on average, are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner (Home Office, 2005). Women are more likely than men to have experienced all types of intimate violence (partner abuse, family abuse, sexual assault and stalking).

Tragically domestic violence is very common within the UK and across the globe at large.  One in four women experience violence in their lifetimes, that means 70% of all women in the world experience physical or sexual violence regardless of their age, social class, race or disability (WHO, 2008). Data collected by the UK Home Office shows domestic violence alone, accounts for one quarter of all recorded crime in the UK.

Other forms of violence such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) exist in the UK but are very much unspoken, hidden or considered a foreign problem. “Oh that doesn’t happen here”. Well, I am afraid it does, in reality as noted by the UK Home Office it is estimated that up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK. Shockingly, other forms of violence such as sexual violence are globally on the rise, as rape is now a common feature as a weapon of war.

So what now? We know the facts but the question remains how we can as a society, community and through legislation prevent violence against women?

The associations of the YWCA of Great Britain in their respective organisations approach violence against women through various domestic violence awareness programmes, self-esteem courses, counselling, support services and safe houses. Operating through a holistic approach creates an environment whereby women feel safe and can be fully informed of their rights.

However, should it just be left to NGO’s and Charities or is it also a government duty to provide services? This is where advocacy evolves and in this regard, we need to hold governments accountable and one way to do this is to participate in the United Nations Commission on the Status on Women (CSW), whereby next March 2013, governments will meet in New York to discuss strategies to eliminate and prevent violence against women. The outcome will be an agreed conclusions document which governments should be held accountable to. NGO’s such as the YWCA of GB can actively participate in CSW and bring the real lived stories of women to the table to influence policies that affect their lives.

The World YWCA is holding an International Training Institute, in Korea later this year themed Violence against Women, this is also an opportunity for CSW preparations. Furthermore, the YWCA of GB is holding the annual GB Conference in November under the same theme. By working together and raising the bar we can prevent violence against women and humanity as a whole, resulting in a safer world.