November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the beginning of an important global advocacy campaign, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
Globally, one third of all women and girls over the age of 15 have experienced sexual or intimate-partner violence. More than 200 million women and girls have endured female genital mutilation and cutting—in some countries, over 90 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15-to-49 have undergone this degrading human rights violation. One-in-five girls and young women around the world face the prospect of child, early, and forced marriage, with the risk rising following the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerging data has shown that COVID-19 has allowed a “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence to spread, with an increase in all types of violence against women and girls.
And yet, gender-based violence is one of the least recognized human rights violations and abuses, though it happens in every single country, including here in the United States. President Biden recently issued the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, which recognizes that all people deserve to live free from the threat of gender-based violence.
At USAID, we are committed to helping to create a world free of gender-based violence so that everyone can participate fully—and safely—in society. We work with partners to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in more than 40 countries, and in each of the past five years, we have provided gender-based violence services to an average of 6.5 million people.
We have also strengthened our efforts to prevent the heinous perpetration of gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse, by aid workers. Our Action Alliance for Preventing Sexual Misconduct has advanced new policies, processes, and requirements to hold USAID’s staff and our partners accountable for protecting the human dignity and rights of people in the communities we serve.
To grow healthy societies and build stronger economies, and make lasting development gains globally, we must invest in the rights and opportunities of women and girls, in all their diversity, and commit to addressing gender-based violence worldwide. To this end, the Biden-Harris Administration will update the U.S. Government’s Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. USAID and the Department of State are leading this process, in coordination with other government agencies and with the input of our partners around the world.
USAID will highlight our efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence over the course of the next 16 Days on @USAIDGender. You can join the conversation, and share your stories, by tagging us and using the hashtags #16Days and #USAIDGender.