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International Women’s Day - An Opportunity for Reflection and Inspiration

March 8, 2012
Today, the world commemorates International Women’s Day 2012, a day to reflect on the changing female role in society and our momentous social, economic, and political achievements.  It is a day to give thanks for the women who have taught us, led us, and influenced us to live to our fullest potential. Organizations around the world will focus on themes that reflect the local, national, and global gender issues relevant to their work and contexts.  The United Nations 2012 theme is Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty. The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), too, is focused on protecting and empowering women and girls in rural communities.  Our charge is to end abuse which can be – and often is – linked to issues of poverty and basic unmet needs like food and shelter.  Our Rural Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Assistance Program is designed to enhance the safety of victims by supporting projects uniquely designed to address and prevent these crimes in rural jurisdictions. As Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund said:
“Many rural women have limited autonomy and low status, which puts them at increased risk of hunger, gender-based violence and other human rights violations. Advancing rural women's political, social and economic status are vital ends in themselves as well as critical strategies to eradicate poverty, promote women's rights and pave the way for sustainable development.”
At OVW, we see this day as an opportunity to raise awareness about issues that disproportionately affect women, and to mobilize for meaningful change.  I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to review some sobering statistics that keep us focused on the need to ensure the safety of our sisters, mothers, and female friends:
  • One in every four women has experienced domestic violence during her lifetime.
  • Stalkers victimize approximately 2.53 million women each year in the U.S, with domestic violence-related stalking the most common type of stalking and the most dangerous.
  • Over one million women in the U.S. are raped every year.
These crimes are underreported and many victims suffer in silence.  International Women’s Day is, in part, about giving a voice and hope to these women and girls.  It is also about learning from survivors and the countless heroes who courageously lead in the face of resistance and hostility. Their stories guide our work for peace and equality. And although the statistics tell us we have a ways to go before violence against women becomes a thing of the past, crime has declined steeply since 1993.  On International Women’s Day, a day of reflection, let us acknowledge the inspiring paradigm shift in how the issue of violence against women is addressed in the United States and the countless lives that have been positively impacted.  There have been significant improvements in the criminal and civil justice systems, and the annual incidence of domestic violence dropped by more than 50 percent in the last two decades.  Fewer people are being victimized by domestic violence, and when they are, they feel safer reporting the abuse to the police. On March 8th, I’d like to suggest we all take a moment to celebrate our sisterhood, our pioneers, and our accomplishments.  We are united in a circle of support for women and girls all over the world – for their safety and success.  The women I work with and for daily inspire me to amplify this office’s efforts to create a violence-free life for women, their children, and families. The Office on Violence Against Women is grateful for the work of individuals and organizations around the world that work every day to end violence against women and girls in all its forms.  For more information about the Office on Violence Against Women, visit www.ovw.usdoj.gov.  We remind all those in need of assistance, or concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

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Updated April 27, 2017