Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women's groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.
The United Nation’s theme for 2013 is – ‘A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.’
Over the weekend, internet retailer Amazon was flooded with complaints about selling T-shirts with slogans advocating domestic violence – evidence that an underlying rape culture exists within our media and that society casually tolerates.
This is wrong. This must end.
The statistics concerning violence against women are just as unsettling:
- In the UK, 167 women are raped every day.
- 54% of UK rapes are committed by a woman’s current or former partner. (Walby and
- One incident of violence against women is reported to the police every minute. (Stanko, 2000)
- On average 2 women a week are killed by a male partner or former partner: this constitutes around one-third of all female homicide victims. (Povey)
- During 2006-7, the National Helpline answered an average of 387 calls per day: 500 a day on weekdays, 250 on Saturdays and 200 on Sundays.
- In 2012, close to one in seven girls aged between 16 and 19 in the UK were victims of domestic abuse.
These are not just statistics. There is a real person behind each of the statistics.
Six steps for you to consider getting involved with this International Women’s Day...
1. EDUCATE yourself
The statistics shows that we can longer remain ignorant and silent on the issue of violence against women. Restored is an international Christian alliance to transform relationships and end violence against women. It believes that Christian churches have huge potential to help prevent violence, but also need to change their own attitudes and practice. Check out the Restored website to equip yourself.
2. ADVOCATE for women
On Tuesday, Teresa May, the UK Home Secretary stated: ‘Violence against women needs to be challenged and opposed everywhere — whether it occurs in the home, in the school playground, on the street or in the bedroom... As Home Secretary, and as a woman... I am passionately committed to ending violence of all kinds against women — whether it is boys coercing girls, women being forced into marriage or prostitution, women and girls being abused in their homes or men killing women.’
We also have a part to play in challenging and opposing violence against women. Check out the End Violence Against Women coalition website to discover how you can use your voice to advocate for yourselves, your daughters, your sisters and your community.
3. PRAY for women
Use newspapers, books and the internet to educate yourself so you can pray more intelligently and with focus for women in the UK and across the world. The Women’s World Day of Prayer website also has great resources.
4. PARTICIPATE in IWD events
There are events (workshops, lectures, dinners, theatre shows, movies) reflecting the theme of IWD being held across the country. You can search for events in your local area on the official website here. If you are in London, The Southbank Centre is hosting its annual Women of the World festival all weekend. Tickets are still available here.
5. ENCOURAGE others
Think about the women who have inspired you in your life and in your faith journey. It is amazing that we have not been running the race alone, but with running partners and cheerleaders. Who has been your running partner? Who has been your cheerleader? Why don’t you encourage them with a handwritten note thanking them for their encouragement and inspiration.
6. MENTOR others
The United Nations has constantly reiterated that when we support the growth and empowerment of women and girls through mentoring, we raise the quality of life for everyone. This is because when women lead they not only lead businesses, they lead in their community, they fight for their children, and they give voice to issues that are important to our collective future - like education and health care. We can also clearly see from the Bible how important the process of mentoring was for forming disciples. So let me ask a difficult question - who are you investing in? Which young woman are you walking beside encouraging and cheerleading them to fulfil their God-given potential? Is it time for you to start investing in the next generation...!
And what about if you are a man?
You can pray, advocate for, celebrate with and encourage your wives, daughters, sisters, mothers and friends. Why don’t you join Restored’s First Man Standing campaign which is an opportunity for ‘men everywhere to be the first in their family, club, church or workplace to stand up and speak out about building strong relationships and ending violence against women.’ You can find more info here.
The last word...
This Sophia Network article has highlighted the prevalence of a culture which casually tolerates violence against women.
Let’s end with the words of William Wilberforce, the prominent abolitionist: ‘You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.’
What will you do?
(If you are or have suffered any form of violence, there are a number of charities and helplines which you can contact. If you are in the UK you can contact the National Domestic Violence hotline 0808 2000 247. It’s a free and confidential service available 24hours a day. Alternatively, you can also contact the Christian charity Restored – its website has links and resources).
Claire Rush is the Participation and Advocacy Co-ordinator for Girls’ Brigade England & Wales and Youth Co-ordinator for GB Europe. She is also a member of the Sophia Network Trustee Board.