Standing against violence
Today marks the day when people speak up to eliminate violence against women. Around the world 1 in 3 women are estimated to experience physical or sexual violence, and some countries report that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced violence at some point in their lives.
As we know, few women report violent crimes, so the real figures could be much higher, especially if we consider psychological violence. Bullying, physical abuse or sexual assault and violence are issues that women face frequently and girls are all too often victims of violence as well.
At Plan International UK we work to eliminate violence against women and girls. Join our Because I am a Girl campaign to make sure attitudes to women and girls are changed and the chances of violence are diminished. Meet the brave women who took a stand against the violence they faced.
Female genital mutilation
"I used to be embarrassed to talk about FGM, because the topic was taboo in our community. At Uncut Girls’ Club I have gained the courage to see that there is nothing mysterious or respectable about the topic.
“We have decided to save ourselves from this cruel tradition and help other girls too. I dare to speak out about the perils of FGM at the market or church.
“Mostly, I educate my friends who are not members of Uncut Girls’ Club. When they ask why we're uncut we tell them that FGM can cause bleeding, pains and complications during pregnancy and birth, and it can also spread HIV.”
Dorothy always thought that marriage was a wonderful thing, until she herself was forced into marriage when she was just 15. Dorothy’s mother thought that marrying her off would be a solution to the family’s financial problems and Dorothy thought marriage would be a great thing. The reality turned out to be very different: “My husband had several girlfriends and mistresses, he used to lock me inside and not let me out until the next day, so that he could go and visit his girlfriends.”
Her husband also didn’t provide for Dorothy and she would often go hungry. Dorothy eventually came into contact with a youth group, supported by Plan International. She learnt that being mistreated by her husband was a form of violence and that she had choices and she could leave him. “My husband was arrogant, he told me that I could leave if I wanted to. He really didn’t care and today he is married to another woman.”
Dorothy now feels free, but she fell pregnant just before she left her husband. Her husband wanted her to have an abortion, but she was too scared, so the child was three weeks old when Dorothy was divorced. Now, she’s a single mother at just 17. “The challenge for girls is that they go from school girl to exhausted child bride. My husband married me and then he dumped me. Now I’m on my own with a child to provide for, it’s going to be hard finding someone that’ll marry me with the child.”
VIOLENCE AT SCHOOL
When Yeama was at school teachers and headmasters often abused girls, blackmailing the vulnerable young women with pass marks.
“When I was 15, I started at a new school and the religious knowledge teacher, a priest, kept failing me even if I did well. I studied hard and I was sure I knew the answers. I asked my teacher what I could do to improve my marks and he told me I must have sex with him. So I did and it lasted for a whole year.”
Yeama left school and now wants to become a lawyer to strengthen children’s rights, “I would like to tell the teachers who do this to stop. The children are the future leaders and we will stop going to school if we risk being abused.”
Violence in cities
Plan International’s all-female rickshaw drivers in the city of Punjab Chakwai mean that girls are no longer restricted in where they go.
Before, it was unsafe for girls to walk the streets to school or work, and male rickshaw drivers could sometimes be part of the problem too. Now, the fleet of pink rickshaws are taking passengers around the city in safety, and the drivers are role models for young girls – as many of them have never seen a woman earning her own living.
“I used to beg on the streets, but now I have a decent and respectful way to earn an income,” says one of the drivers.
Violence in conflict
"During the war three men killed my Ma and Pa and impregnated me." Carmen was ten when she was attacked in a brutal civil war in Liberia.
Now she has no choice but to work as a sex worker to pay for her children's education. On the street, Carmen works with other young girls who are either single mothers, or who were orphaned in the war and see no other way of surviving.
Plan International's Girl Power Project works with many of these young women and teaches vocational skills and offers saving group schemes.
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