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Girls & Women

10 ways we're making progress to end violence against women and girls

Flickr- Joel Dousset

Hundreds of millions of young people confront social and economic obstacles to their well-being every day. Violence is one of the most prevalent human rights violations worldwide. Did you know that:

- 1 in 3 women worldwide have been sexually, physically or psychologically abused in their lifetime.

- Worldwide, up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. 

- Every day, 39,000 girls become child brides.

- 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation. 

The fight to end violence against women and girls has been an uphill battle, with tremendous progress in the last decade. Governments, communities and families have all played an instrumental role in working to tear down these barriers. But there is still much to be done.

That’s why we’re placing the spotlight on eliminating violence and harmful practices against women and girls -- because we all deserve equal rights and opportunities.

Join me today in taking action to raise awareness about violence and call on world leaders to invest in young people in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. But first...

Check out 10 ways we are making progress to curb violence against women below.

1. Keeping girls in school

Flickr: Visual News Associates / World Bank

Education has been a top priority since 2000. Many governments have committed to increase the quality of education for girls, and have made efforts to keep girls in school longer. By increasing access to education we are keeping girls in school and away from violence, as well as empowering them to act as knowledgeable, educated adults who make informed decisions.

2. Outlawing child marriage

Flickr: Jean L.

Women and girls under the age of 15 are getting married all around the world. This injustice is especially prominent in many African and Muslim communities. In an effort to end child marriage, many countries have created laws prohibiting the marriage of girls under the age of 15 -- with the majority of countries prohibiting the marriage of women and girls under the age of 18.

3. Ending female genital mutilation

Flickr: Jessica Lea/DFID

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional cultural practice that takes place both voluntarily as well as by force. FGM can cause severe pain as well as health complications that put the lives of young women around the world at risk. FGM is now recognized as an unsafe custom and governments and NGOs are working to put an end to this practice.

4. Increasing access to shelters and services for victims of violence

Flickr: Sanjit Das for Avahan, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Women’s services have been on the rise globally over the last decade. Women who have been abused and subjected to violence can now find a safe haven at local shelters and service providers. These victims are given access to safe shelter and food, and are provided with victim services such as counseling and legal aid.

5. Criminalizing violence and rape

Flickr: Wally Gobetz

Though laws against rape have been in place for many years in most countries, recent legislative action in many nations has reinforced the value of these laws and created new criminalization standards. Today, assault and rape are taken very seriously in the courts of most countries. In many nations women are now protected against intimate partner violence, including marital rape, and victims are being increasingly protected from prosecution in instances of self defense.

6.  Ending open defecation

Flickr: Gates Foundation

Open defecation is an especially relevant issue for women and girls when it comes to violence. Open defecation puts women and girls at a greater risk for sexual violence. They risk shame, harassment, even rape, because they have nowhere safe to use a toilet.

Ending open defecation also helps maintain sanitation during menstrual cycles. Young women without access to proper sanitation are often forced to leave school during their menstrual cycles, causing them to miss many weeks of schooling each year, consequently impeding their education. With recent efforts to increase sanitation and end open defecation, girls can now stay safe and in school during their menstrual cycles, and receive a better education.

7. Empowering women

Flickr: U.S.Consulate General, Chennai

Advocates and NGOs around the world are empowering women every day. They are sharing women’s stories and helping them to pick themselves up out of persecution. Strong women like Malala Yousafzai are using their voices to teach people around the world about the persecution they have endured. In doing so, they are encouraging people and governments to put an end to violence against women and girls.

8. Closing the gender gap in the workplace

Flickr: DFID/Russell Watkins

Throughout history women have often had less important roles in the workplace and been paid significantly lower salaries than men. Though there is still a pay gap between men and women today, women’s roles in the workplace have become more prominent. In many countries today, women can do all of the same things as men -- they can have professions such as lawyers, doctors, and politicians. They are increasingly represented in government and they are becoming powerful decision makers. When women contribute to their societies, they become empowered and less vulnerable to acts of violence.    

9. Addressing gender-based violence in conflict zones

Flickr: Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID

Violence against women has often been used as a tactic by oppressors in cases of war and conflict. Terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram have married off, raped and kidnapped women and girls in an effort to gain power over target countries and governments. These war tactics have been condemned by governments around the world and are now included as punishable war crimes by the ICC.

10.  Integrating men and boys in the fight for gender equality

Flickr: UN Women/Ryan Brown

In the past, the fight for gender equality has often been a women’s battle. Female advocates and feminists took the leading role in fighting for equality and the end of gender-based violence. However, men and boys are being called upon and have taken a much more active role today. Most recently, the HeForShe campaign, popularized by Emma Watson, has emphasized the importance of male advocates in the fight for gender equality.


Over the past decade, we have seen great progress in the fight to end violence. Yet, we must continue to advocate for the rights and protection of women and girls everywhere.