Today, Australia joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s Day. A day that marks the achievements of women, as well as raising awareness of the issues women continue to face globally. This year in Australia, the priority theme for International Women’s Day is ending violence against women.
Far too many women and girls around the world, including in Australia, face violence. Globally, at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime1. Violence against women is unacceptable, anywhere, anytime. It violates human rights, devastates lives, fractures families and communities and undermines good development.
Recent reports of horrific acts of violence against women have shocked the world: the Pakistani school girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was attacked and shot for speaking out about the importance of girls’ education. And the case of the young female student in India who was raped and murdered. Acts of violence against women are violation of human rights and continue to hold back women’s empowerment.
On Australia’s own doorstep, the Pacific region has some of the highest levels of violence against women in the world. In some Pacific countries, more than 60 per cent of women and girls have experienced violence at the hands of their partners at some time in their lives 2.
The Australian Government continues to increase its support for promoting gender equality and responding to violence against women, including through new programs in the Pacific, Afghanistan and Indonesia.
Ending violence against women is one of the key focuses the new $320 million initiative, Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development, announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum. The initiative aims to increase safety for women through better services for survivors of violence including health services, crisis centres for counselling, and shelters for accommodation. Preventing violence is integral to the initiative, and Australia will directly support prevention activities through local women’s groups, male advocates and other networks across the region to build momentum to drive social change.
In Afghanistan, the situation for women is unacceptable and a priority for Australia’s aid program. While official statistics are not available, a 2008 survey by Global Rights, an international non-government organisation, found that 87 per cent of women in Afghanistan have experienced some form of violence3. Over the next three years the Australia Government will provide $17.7 million to reduce the incidence of violence and improve service delivery for women affected by violence in Afghanistan.
In Indonesia, Australia’s Empowering Indonesian Women for Poverty Reduction program (also known as MAMPU) aims to improve the welfare of poor rural and urban women in Indonesia. One of the five priority areas for this program is to strengthen women’s leadership to reduce violence against women. The program will also include support for centres helping victims of violence, public awareness campaigns on the issue of violence and advocacy for legal and policy reforms to both reduce discriminatory regulation and improve overall service provision for victims of violence.
The Australian aid program is making a difference through our investments in programs to eliminate violence against women.
AusAID's Engage blog (external website)
2 . This figure is drawn from violence against women prevalence studies undertaken in Vanuatu, Kiribati and Solomon Islands.
3 . Global Rights: Partners for Justice, 2008, Living with Violence: A National Report on Domestic Abuse in Afghanistan [external website, PDF 8.3mb]