March on March 8

Pakistani Shiite Muslims women protest against yesterday's bomb attack in Quetta on February 17, 2013. The death toll from a
Pakistani Shiite Muslims women protest against yesterday's bomb attack in Quetta on February 17, 2013. The death toll from a devastating bomb attack on Shiite Muslims in southwest Pakistan rose to 81 Sunday, as the community threatened protests if swift action was not taken against the killers. AFP PHOTO/Banaras KHAN (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

I was reflecting on a study released by UN Women indicating that as many as seven out of every 10 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence and that up to one in five young women under age 15 experience sexual abuse, most often by a male family member other than a father or stepfather. As an example, it is shocking to know that in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, it is reported that an average of 36 women and girls are being raped on daily basis.

Every day in every country women and girls -- be it by friends, neighbors, or family members -- are being physically abused, harassed, shot or raped.

And despite global efforts to end violence against women, this appalling violation of a basic human right is still recurring at various levels and forms in many parts of our world today.

It is very disturbing, let alone shameful.

It is good to know though, that in less than three weeks, States will have the chance to address this cause at the meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). So far, 18 countries have pledged to contribute new initiatives to stop gender-based violence and to revisit the issue eliminating violence against women and girls.

As an Arab woman living in New York, I have closely watched how women in the Arab region rallied, protested, blogged throughout the Arab Spring. Indeed these women empowered themselves and embraced the uprising that swept their countries.

But it broke my heart to see how these very women continue to face alarmingly high levels of gender based harassment and violence. Their role in the political transition that have re-shaped the Arab world have gone unappreciated.

It is only by standing together and speaking loudly with one voice that we can end violence against women. In fact, I believe it's a moral imperative and a collective responsibility to stop these crimes against women and persecute the perpetrators.

With this in mind, we at UN Women for Peace, a non-profit organization founded in 2008 by women and for women, wanted to launch a stimulating event for a cause that is so close to our hearts and that would also mark International Women Day. So we decided to organize a rally that we called "March on March 8". The rally, which will start at 12:30 p.m. inside the gates of the United Nations headquarters here in New York, will continue to the Dag Hammerskjold Park. It intends to raise awareness and give greater visibility to such a critical issue. We aim to attract those who are committed to undertake concrete actions and draw influential supporters worldwide.

It is encouraging to see at this point a number of existing initiatives that aim at ending this global pandemic of violence against women like UNiTe Campaign and COMMIT, and most recently the One Billion Rising initiative. They all aim at a world free from violence against women and girls.

This vision can only be realized through taking collective action, increasing political will and resources.

Come together, March on March 8th and Speak out to end violence against women.