The 25th of November marks the International Day for the elimination of violence against women and girls. On marking this day, we are together acknowledging the hard work and commitment of individuals and organisations across the globe, striving towards the end of violence against women and girls, and the creation of a world where women and girls can live a life free from exploitation, abuse and disadvantage.
As we begin to emerge from a global pandemic the UN has identified a shadow pandemic, formed with emerging data and reports from those on the frontline with evidence that women and girls’ experiences of violence and exploitation have increased. There have long been links identified between economic disadvantage and violence against women and girls. It is therefore no surprise that a global pandemic, with new and unexpected economic disadvantage and change in circumstances, increased exploitation and abuse. For those for whom violence and exploitation was already their lived experience, choices significantly narrowed and for some women and girls the choice to live or die became a stark reality.
This year’s theme is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” – a campaign which is amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, and ensure there is capacityto fund essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID–19 pandemic crisis, with a focus on prevention, and collection of data that aims to improve lifesaving services for women and girls.
To see the end of violence against women and girls there is a real need to fund female–only trauma informed support services, which respond to the needs of women and girls with a knowledge and level of research supporting and advocating on their behalf to a place of safety and security. In order to achieve this we must respond to changing landscapes and support women to live a life free from disadvantage, abuse and exploitation. Only when we listen to survivors can we create services, which are fit for purpose, current and relevant.
An example of this is research commissioned by NBCW and CSAN member,women@thewell “Invisible: prostitution and the lives of women”. The report was a result of listening to the voices of women whose lives have been affected by prostitution, as well as the voices of some of the professional staff who support them. The unusual feature of this report is that its concern was not primarily with the facts of the women’s situations – the violence, frequent experiences of homelessness and addiction – but with how the women made sense of their lives. In particular, the reflection on what freedom means in their own lives,
and on issues such as safety, survival and solidarity.
Through this listening we come to a deeper understanding of the damage of prostitution. The women’s voices are full of anguish, courage, resilience and morality. The research had a double task: to listen to the women and amplify their insights and stories and to bring these into dialogue with Catholic social thought and theological and political ethics. In a world where women experience daily inequality based on their gender, we believe that the structure of Catholic social thought gives us some solid building blocks to work towards gender equality.
As we move into the sixteen days of activism, culminating on UN Human Rights Day on 10 December 2021, we are in awe of those who work tirelessly every day, demanding more for women and girls and the end to violence.
We pray together for the women and girls who are victims and survivors of violence, those that work to support them in their recovery, those who advocate tirelessly to change systems, and especially for those who have the power to make changes within their communities. May we work together to eliminate the scourge of violence and build a brighter future for all women and girls.
Support services and resources
For details of a range of support for violence and abuse, including information on resources in a range of community languages and British Sign Language please see the End Violence Against Women website
Rape, sexual assault and childhood abuse: The Rape Crisis National Helpline supports victims/survivors aged 13+ or those supporting them every day of the year 12pm –2.30pm and 7pm – 9.30pm on 0808 802 9999. Local Rape Crisis support centres can be found via the Rape Crisis website.
Domestic Violence and Abuse: Call the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or find a local support centre via the Women’s Aid website.
Support for Churches and Parishes: The National Board of Catholic Women have produced a resource for parishes which includes information on where to access support Raising Awareness of Domestic Abuse
Welsh Women’s Aid: For victims of violence and abuse in Wales 0808 80 10 800
Support for perpetrators is available here: Respect or call 0808 8024040
women@thewell supports women who are exploited in the sex trade to exit from a life entangled in prostitution and abuse. For more information about their work see the women@thewell website.
National Board of Catholic Women
The National Board of Catholic Women brings together women from many different backgrounds. Working nationally and internationally to challenge discrimination and promote the right of women to gender justice. The Board actively promotes the presence, participation and responsibilities of Catholic women in the Church and society. The Board works ecumenically, with women of other faiths and secular groups. There are also many member organisations that bring their expertise, interests and networks to the wider Board. The Board is a consultative body to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales
and the United Nations Social and Economic Committee (ECOSOC). In 2020, after many years of addressing VAWG issues as part of their other work, and responding to a growing need, the Board created a new committee to focus solely on issues relating to Violence Against Women and Girls to sit alongside their other key work areas. More information can be found on the NBCW website.
Further information is available on the UN Website