And gender-based violence causes more death and disability among women aged 15-45 than war, cancer, malaria and
road traffic accidents, according to the World Bank.
For many women these disturbing facts are not something that they can read and just forget about, they define the very reality of their lives.
Human rights groups and women’s organisations across the world are raising awareness of how such violence blights women’s lives on 25 November – the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Womankind Worldwide is an international women’s rights and development organisation based in London. The charity operates in 22 countries to achieve lasting improvements in women’s economic, social and political status.
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The organisation welcomes the international day of focus but says that more needs to be done to address women’s rights.
“The UN day of action acts as a focus point for women’s voices and stories to be heard,” says Audrey Green from Womankind.
“But on its own, this day of action won’t change anything, there has to be a greater desire to tackle issues relating to sexual violence, poverty and human rights violations.”
Marina Martin works with the Afghan woman’s rights movement RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) based in Pakistan.
‘Human rights are non existant in Afghanistan, and human rights go hand in hand with improving the lives of women’
Marina Martin, RAWA
The organisation gained international recognition for its work in Afghanistan and secret film footage showing an Afghan woman being executed in public by the Taliban.
Martin told Aljazeera.net that two years after the US-led bombing of Afghanistan, women were still fighting to establish their basic rights.
“Human rights are non-existent in Afghanistan, and human rights go hand in hand with improving the lives of women,” she says. “I recently returned from Kabul, the women that I talked to told me that they don’t feel safe anymore, I heard stories
about women being raped.”
Afghanistan has a population of 25.8 million people; 21 million are living in acute poverty. Under Taliban rule women were banned from going to school, but some were fortunate enough to receive an education in secret schools.
Martin believes that women need to become politically aware and push for a change in their lives.
“The antiwar movement across the world has given us hope,” she says.
“We know that a change in the lives of Afghan women will only come about through us, those marching on the capitals of the world may not have been able to stop the war in Afghanistan or Iraq, but at least they have exposed American foreign policy for what it is – hypocritical and unjust”.