The Blog

We Can and Will Eliminate Violence Against Women

We don't always talk about gender-based violence in our conversations with family and friends, but it is pervasive in every culture and in every country on earth.
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In just a few days, the global community will mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day takes place on November 25 each year -- a date chosen by the United Nations to mark the assassination of three sisters, the Mirabal sisters, who were political activists in the Dominican Republic.

The fact is, activists and advocates around the globe put themselves at risk every day to help put an end to violence against women and girls. I see their efforts in my work at Women Thrive Worldwide as an advocate for policies to end gender-based violence. While I spend my days on Capitol Hill pushing for legislation like the International Violence Against Women Act, thousands of amazing women and men lead programs and efforts on the ground that bills like the IVAWA could help bolster.

Our work could not be more urgent.

Worldwide, one in three women will experience some form of physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. We don't always talk about gender-based violence in our conversations with family and friends, but it is pervasive in every culture and in every country on earth. It ranges from rape to child marriage to so-called "honor killings." Chances are, many women you know have experienced gender-based violence.

One incredible resource that on-the-ground advocates have is the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. Its work is vitally important and relatively straightforward -- supporting local efforts that are proving successful in the fight to end violence against women and girls.

The UN Trust Fund is, in fact, the only global funding mechanism providing grants to organizations large and small that innovate effective approaches for responding to violence and preventing it in the first place. Since its inception, the UN Trust Fund has distributed 393 grants to fund projects in 135 countries. In total, by supporting the work of on-the-ground activists, the UN Trust Fund has reached over 3 million people, including 30,000 survivors.

But if these numbers don't impress you, perhaps the work of some of the amazing advocates who receive grants will.

In post-conflict societies like Uganda, many women face unique challenges. Raising Voices, a UN Trust Fund grantee since 2009, wants to change the power dynamics between men and women and boys and girls so that families and communities see violence as unacceptable. The group of 30 advocates works day-in and day-out to train organizations working in communities from Iraq to Haiti to undertake a holistic, multi-faceted approach in order to change social norms that have historically condoned violence against women and girls.

A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that Raising Voices' dynamic approach -- called the SASA! method -- reduced women's experience of intimate partner violence by up to 52 percent in some communities and generated outcomes including significant attitude shifts throughout communities around issues of gender-based violence.

Another UN Trust Fund grantee, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ), works with women affected by conflicts under investigation by the International Criminal Court. The group ensures that the ICC prioritizes investigating and prosecuting sexual violence crimes, and among its many goals is advocating for survivors' rights to reparations.

WIGJ is working to strengthen the capacity and amplify the voices of advocates working in conflict-affected countries to change the conversation about women's roles in seeking justice and promoting peace.

When I get to meet advocates like Raising Voices' Co-founder Lori Michau or Brigid Inder of Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, as I had the chance to a few weeks ago when they were in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for funding of the UN Trust Fund, I am humbled and heartened. Their work is making a real difference in women's lives. It's a slow process, but things are starting to change for the better.

Passionate women and men around the globe have dedicated their lives to promoting women's rights and doing the hard work of changing attitudes and long-standing norms.

I'm one of those people. So is Brigid. So is Lori. And so are the countless men and women working around the world to end violence in their communities. If there's anything I've learned in my work, it's that it takes a village to create change. Together, I believe that we can -- and will -- eliminate violence against women and girls.

To learn more about how Women Thrive Worldwide is working with advocates around the globe to end gender-based violence, visit us online here.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2014) on December 2. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll be featuring posts from InterAction partners and others all month in November. To see all the posts in the series, visit here; follow the conversation on Twitter via #GivingTuesday and learn more here. For more information about InterAction, visit here.