WOW | Ed Page

Speak up instead of suffering in silence

Women constitute half the world, perform almost two thirds of its work hours, receive one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one-hundredth of the world’s property. This data came into existence in the 1970s and may not be entirely relevant or scientific then or today. But we move up or down the scales, there may be no hugely significant changes even today.

This month is dedicated to an 18-day campaign to end Violence Against Women (VAW) which is observed annually from November 25 to December 12 to raise awareness on this serious public issue of global concern.

Violence against women are termed as as domestic violence, social violence, rape, attempt to rape, murder, trafficking and sexual violence, harassment, eve teasing, cyber crime, forced labour and prostitution. Studies reveal that it is not common for women to seek assistance from any source for violence they have experienced. Statistics show that 77% have never sought help and 64% have never told anyone.

Between 5,000 and 12,000 girls and women aged 10 to 20 years of age are trafficked every year, 75 percent of whom are below 18 years of age and the majority of whom are sold into forced prostitution. One in every five women experience physical violence in Nepal and one in 10 sexual violence. Nearly 1 in 10 adolescents aged 15-19 experience physical violence during pregnancy. Most often the perpetrator is a known person.

This now brings me to the incidence of harassment of women at the workplace. Reported cases of workplace harassment are almost negligible in the country, and the legal procedures so long drawn that even lawyers suggest that women settle things amicably under the supervision of the HR department or the organization head. At the end of which often it is the woman who is further victimized by her colleagues and peers questioning her character. The man often goes unscathed.

I personally feel very strongly that young people can be the stakeholders in efforts to prevent and end violence against women and girls. Youth are the driving force of change ultimately. They are the ones who can challenge gender stereotypes, negative attitude and behavior leading to violence. We must encourage people of all ages to take action instead of suffering in silence. We must raise our sons and daughters to understand and promote respectful relationships and gender equality.

If half the world cannot engage in an equally participative way, we are losing a critical opportunity of what the world can really be!