Using women’s growing power to combat gender-based violence – Women Deliver

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Using women’s growing power to combat gender-based violence

By Katja Iversen | The Hill Times | 13 December 2018

It’s time to shift our perspective to focus on reducing the inequalities, as well as on upending the gender norms and social dynamics that allow such violence to persist.

Spearheaded by women around the world, a global movement is afoot. At every level of society, it’s redefining power. Women-led movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp—and regional movements like Ni Una Menos, which challenges gender-based violence in Latin America—are moving full speed ahead to change the status quo. It’s time to talk about how we channel this new power to end all forms of violence.

Gender-based violence is a global phenomenon cutting across nation, class, and culture. For instance, one in three girls and women on this planet will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.

Nevertheless, societies have yet to confront the fundamental human rights issues of violence. If addressed at all, decision makers tend to view violence as a crime, with an emphasis on punishing the perpetrator.

It’s time to shift our perspective to focus on reducing the inequalities, as well as on upending the gender norms and social dynamics that allow such violence to persist. Movements like #MeToo and #NiUnaMenos are exposing the near ubiquity of gender-based violence and discrimination and forcing public and media attention on once taboo topics.

But the march towards progress is not always straight ahead. We’re seeing blowbacks to hard-fought women’s rights that we haven’t seen in decades. For sustainable change, we need to see a global shift in who controls the resources and a change in old power structures.

Around the world, there are some promising models. The gender-balanced cabinet the Trudeau government established in 2015 is just one example. Colombia, Ethiopia, Spain, and Rwanda, now also have gender equal cabinets. What’s more, a new generation of young, both male and female, leaders is working across borders, cultures and identities, and bringing new, diverse voices to the call for gender equality.

And the more we work toward equal opportunity for and treatment of women, the better off we will all be. A 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report estimated that as much as $28-trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025, if women were able to fully participate in economy identically to men. Similarly, a 2017 McKinsey report on gender parity estimates that Canada could add $150-billion to the economy, if the country invests in removing obstacles women face in entering the workforce and seeking jobs in high-productivity sectors.

Finding lasting solutions will require bringing everyone to the table, particularly those most affected by violence and those with the power to shape policies and practice. Some of these leading voices will come together at the 2019 Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, from June 3-6. The founder of #MeToo, Tarana Burke, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, heads of UN agencies, and industry leaders will all speak at the conference, which will focus on power and how power can be used for good.

We will also hear from the people creating change in their own communities, seeking tailored ways and solutions to address massive challenges such as gender-based violence. These include leaders like Nice Leng’ete, a young Maasai woman from Kenya who, as a child, escaped her scheduled genital mutilation. She has since helped 15,000 other girls avoid genital cutting by creating an alternative, nonviolent ceremony.

To accelerate progress and achieve our lofty goals, we need greater investments across all sectors, and leadership to encourage other nations to do the same. Gender-based violence is fundamentally a problem of gender inequality, including persistent gender stereotypes that normalize violence against women. We cannot end violence without investing in gender equality.

Katja Iversen is president and CEO of Women Deliver, which advocates for gender equality and health and rights of girls and women.