Violence against women pervades virtually every society and every realm of life, affecting families and communities.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon,in a statement to mark International Women’s Day, which falls on 8th March, made a special promise to women in conflict situations, where sexual violence too often becomes a tool of war aimed at humiliating the enemy by destroying their dignity.
He said “ As Secretary-General, I insist that the welfare of all victims of sexual violence in conflict must be at the forefront of our activities. And I instruct my senior advisors to make our response to sexual violence a priority in all of our peace-making, peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities,”
Undoubtedly, there is a connection between sexual violence and maternal health. Sexual violence exposes women to all sorts of reproductive health risks, including maternal mortality and morbidity.
Women who have been sexually violated do not only have to deal with self humiliation, many end up with unwanted pregnancies and may resort to unsafe abortions and risk their lives. Others contract sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV.
It is for that reason that the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign calls for an end to gender-based violence (GBV) and appeals to governments to respond, protect and prevent violence against women.
Significantly the call to end gender based violence comes at a time that gender advocates are preparing to gather at the global conference, “Women Deliver 2013” which generates new political, financial and grassroots support for girls’ and women’s health and empowerment.
The conference, the third to be held, is expected to convene more than 5,000 experts and advocates from more than 160 countries to the Malaysian capital, Kualar Lumpar, to deliberate on critical issues related to women’s health and empowerment.
The issues include the unmet need for family planning and the landmark July, 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, where global leaders committed to provide contraceptive access to 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries by the year 2020.
It aims to ensure that investments in girls and women remain a global priority in the lead-up to the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) deadline and beyond.
"Women Deliver 2013 offers an unprecedented opportunity to build on the tremendous momentum generated last year around reproductive health, especially during the London Summit on Family Planning," said Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director. "Access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, age appropriate sexuality education, information and services and skilled and motivated care givers help ensure that all women and girls have the power to shape their futures."
“With the MDG target date just around the corner, the time is now for us to ensure that girls and women are central pillars in the new development agenda,” said Jill Sheffield, Women Deliver Founder and President. “We have made incredible strides toward improving women’s health and rights in recent years, and we cannot stop now. Women Deliver 2013 will offer a powerful forum for ensuring that we continue to deliver for girls and women for years to come.”
The effort to end GBV will not achieve the desired impact in so far as the health of girls and women remains a global priority and the call from Women Deliver is for the world to work together to ensure that girls and women are at the heart of development efforts.