Thursday, May 1, 2008

International Violence Against Women Act

Here in the United States the Violence Against Women Act has provided many invaluable resources to domestic violence survivors. While there is room for improvement, and an on-going movement to protect VAWA's funding, we must remember that violence against women is a global epidemic. Apart from being a gross human rights violation, widespread violence against women actually stunts the economic growth of a nation.

Violence prevents women from:

Working: Violence reduces a woman's ability to work and provide for her family. In India, for example, a survey revealed that women who experienced even a single incident of violence lost an average of seven working days.

Staying at Work: In Kenya, 95 percent of the women who had experienced sexual abuse in their workplace were afraid to report the problem for fear of losing their jobs.

Getting an Education: Research shows that violence against women - including sexual assault, intimidation, and abuse - takes place in schools. Girls who are exposed to or experience violence are less likely to complete their education. A study in Nicaragua found that children of female victims of violence left school an average of four years earlier than other children.

Building Strong Communities: Women who experience violence are less able to benefit from and contribute to healthy communities.

The international situation parallels the plight of domestic violence survivors in the United States. According to, studies show that a domestic violence survivor's degree of financial independence is the best predictor of whether or not she will return to her abuser. The CDC estimates that, "Victims of intimate partner violence lose 8,000,000 days of paid work each year--the equivalent of over 32,000 full-time jobs and 5,600,000 days of household productivity."
The good news is that violence against women is preventable and that there are proven solutions that work. The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), if passed, would, for the first time, comprehensively incorporate these solutions into all U.S. foreign assistance programs - solutions such as promoting women's economic opportunity, addressing violence against girls in school, and working to change public attitudes. Among other things, the IVAWA would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history. It would require the U.S. government to respond to critical outbreaks of gender-based violence in armed conflict - such as the mass rapes now occuring in the Democratic Republic of Congo - within two months. And by investing in local women's organizations overseas that are succesfully working to reduce violence in their communities, the IVAWA would have a huge impact on reducing poverty - freeing millions of women in poor countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty.
We have the power at home and abroad to send the message that violence against women will not be tolerated. For a concise explanation of IVAWA and to sign the petition of support, please visit Women Thrive Worldwide.

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