End Violence Against Women
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Statement by Education Cannot Wait Executive Director Yasmine Sherif
25 November 2023, New York – In the 21st century, we cannot tolerate the rape and abduction of girls and women, forced child marriage, and the continued denial of any human rights and equality to girls and women everywhere.
We must take stronger action to end violence against girls and women through the UN 16 Days of Activism campaign – running from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls (25 November) until Human Rights Day (10 December). We urge leaders everywhere to take firm, concrete action to put all the human rights of girls and women – especially their right to 12 years of safe, quality education – at the forefront of the international agenda.
This year’s theme is ‘Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls.’ By investing in safe schools, protective learning environments, and mental health and psychosocial support – through holistic, quality education that empowers girls to be confident of their rights and have the power to claim them – we can truly empower an entire generation of future women leaders.
Investing in girls’ education also contributes towards achieving the binding commitments enshrined in the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Sustainable Development Goals.
We must act now. Every minute, 22 girls are forced into child marriage, and about 21% of girls worldwide are married before they turn 18. Now is the time to fully invest in the education of girls so they can become child scholars, not child brides.
Globally, an estimated 736 million women – almost one in three – have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both, at least once in their life. It is time to be loud and clear that no woman or girl can be subjected to any violation of their dignity, rights, freedoms and their person.
Now is the time to end reckless governance in the world that results in armed conflicts and flagrant violations of International Humanitarian Law. We must act collectively to ensure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, where the humanitarian system is facing near total collapse with unimaginable consequences for more than 2.2 million civilians, including 788,800 girls and women who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.
We must be moved to action by their words: “I saw dead bodies lying on the street. My mom told me to close my eyes, but I couldn’t. I was so scared,” said an 11-year-old girl at an UNRWA school. We cannot close our eyes to armed conflicts or violations of human rights and humanitarian law anywhere in the world.
We cannot close our eyes to the denial of human rights in Afghanistan, where girls are banned from attending secondary school and university because of their gender. We cannot close our eyes to insecurity and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or any other country where girls are abducted, raped, killed in inter-ethnic clashes and denied their humanity.
Just as the world can make war and oppress girls and women, we also have the same capacity to make peace and empower girls and women. The choice is ours. The choice we make as a human family will determine who we are and how far we have come as a human species.
Meanwhile, we who have chosen human dignity and moral responsibility will continue to invest in the education and the unbreakable spirit of girls and women everywhere. Our investment in education is our investment in their courage, resilience, brilliance, strength and fortitude. For the sake of 8 billon members of humanity. But we can’t do it alone. We are all in this together.