As we celebrate more than 100 years since the inaugural International Women’s Day, we are once again reminded that despite the great strides women and girls from all walks of life have made, endemic challenges -- often mired in cultural, social, and political norms -- still keep half the population worldwide from realizing its full potential. As a result, societies and countries also fail to live up to their own capabilities. Fortunately, a groundswell of support is building to turn the tide. It’s fitting that the theme of International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldforChange. In an ever-growing interconnected world, we all have a responsibility to stand up for gender equality as it will support people everywhere.
It is, however, often easy to be discouraged. As the recent roll out of the annual State Department’s Human Rights Report reveals, no country is immune from gender based violence (GBV), despite strong laws in many countries criminalizing such abuse, including in the United States.
In fact, one out of every three women globally is affected by violence during her lifetime, and the situation is even more dire in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 38 percent of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. Other studies estimate that more than 200 million girls and women living today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting. Such harmful practices carried out in the name of tradition, including so-called “honor killings,” have no place in the 21st century. The list goes on. Passing laws is just one step; there is much more that needs to be done to address the problem, including providing services for survivors to recover and to thrive, holding perpetrators to account, and preventing such violence from happening in the first place through education and raising awareness.