By the Hon Dr Sharman Stone, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls
25 November, every year, marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the commencement of the 16 Days of Activism campaign, designed to galvanize support to end violence against women and girls.
Collectively, we must find solutions to end inter-generational violence against women. One in three women globally experience violence in their lifetime, and in some parts of our region, this rate can be double.
In Australia, on average, one women is killed every week by a current or former partner. To effect long-term change, we must work with men and boys to make them accountable for any violence they perpetrate. We need to educate men and boys so they understand that violence against women and girls is never excusable. They need to be aware of the impact of violence on the victim, their families and the community.
In order to break the chain of inter-generational violence, we need to tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls. We need to change the behaviour and attitudes of men, and challenge masculine stereotypes, which make aggression and violence against women acceptable. We need to promote the concept of men as caring fathers and supportive partners. We need more male role models and champions to take action and condemn violence.
Last year, I visited the Solomon Islands and met women who shared their stories of safer family environments. I was encouraged to hear how chiefs, pastors, and community leaders – the majority of whom are male – were working with community members to challenge gender norms through religious messages that encouraged them to change their attitudes and behaviour, and respect their families. Through these community initiatives, the women of Lilisiana village Malaita were now feeling more safe and empowered.
In April this year, I visited Samoa, where Australian aid assists the Samoan Government to implement programs that address alcohol and drug abuse, which exacerbates violence against women. One program participant said, “This program has made me realise that my substance abuse was hurting my family, especially my partner.”
One thing that continues to sadden me as I travel globally as Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls is the numerous stories of young girls who experience abuse, but who also accept that this abuse must be tolerated in their lives. We need to better educate girls and the community to understand that all forms of violence are unacceptable.
In Tonga, Australia has helped to educate over 6,000 primary and secondary students over the past three years to help change young people’s notion that violence is acceptable and excusable. Armed with this knowledge, young people have more confidence to make better life decisions.
During these 16 Days of Activism, all Australians can make it known that violence in our community and in the region is intolerable, and an abuse of human rights of all women and girls. Let’s join with our communities, men and boys, to break inter-generational abuse and make it known that violence is inexcusable. Let’s gather our male family members, community leaders, friends, and colleagues to raise awareness and take responsibility to end violence against women and girls—for all time.