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Speaking out about gender-based violence

One of the most destructive weapons in the assault against the family today is that of gender-based violence and Mothers’ Union is joining in the fight against it

01 Mar 2016

Violence or abuse perpetrated against women and girls, because of their gender, destroys lives. It rips families apart, devastates communities and perpetuates the continued oppression of one half of the world’s population. The scale of gender-based violence is simply staggering. In many contexts, gender-based violence is scarcely spoken of, being considered a taboo subject; however the impact of remaining silent about it is devastating. Silence allows gender-based violence to continue unabated, as well as condemning those affected to a voiceless and isolated existence. Speaking out is essential in order to: challenge societal attitudes and myths that allow gender-based violence to persist; ensure that survivors know they are not alone, and can access help, justice and healing; and to place pressure on governments and those in authority to take necessary action to combat it. Mothers’ Union around the world has been increasingly vocal in speaking out against gender-based violence, and our message is very simple: we are calling for the number of women affected by gender-based violence across the world to be reduced from one in three to zero.


Mothers’ Union participates in the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, which runs from 25 November to 10 December each year. During the campaign, Mothers’ Union members call for an end to gender-based violence through various awareness-raising activities and practical projects. During 16 Days of Activism last year, many members held prayer vigils in order to raise awareness within their communities, show solidarity with those affected and bring the issue before God. In the Province of All Ireland, Mothers’ Union held 15 vigils simultaneously and gained some excellent media coverage. Members in Australia took part in a demonstration and, globally, members took to social media to raise awareness and call with a loud voice for an end to gender-based violence.


To mark the start of 16 Days, Mothers’ Union held a ground-breaking conference at Mary Sumner House (Head Office) in London, which looked at ways forward in tackling gender-based violence. The conference included high profile speakers from organisations such as Age International, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Revenge Porn Helpline, and was attended by a wide range of participants including academics, volunteers, and professionals working in the field. Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, Caroline Dinenage, also sent an opening statement, acknowledging the valuable work of Mothers’ Union in this area. Further afield, Mothers’ Union in Rwanda held a conference on sexual violence and HIV, which was attended by representatives from the church as well as government ministers.


While campaigns such as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence are key in providing a co-ordinated worldwide response, we know that gender-based violence does not stop after the 16th day. Mothers’ Union works throughout the year, raising awareness throughout the 83 countries in which we operate. Mothers’ Union has also lobbied for political change at United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), a forum for UN member states to address the issues that disadvantage women and girls around the world. This is a unique platform through which to influence the international community, and ensure that governments around the world remain committed to addressing the issue of gender-based violence. Mothers’ Union has worked alongside government delegations from several countries over the past 16 years, and will be attending UNCSW in 2016, to ensure that the voice of Mothers’ Union members, and of all women affected by gender-based violence, is represented.


Throughout the year Mothers’ Union works alongside partner organisations such as Restored and We Will Speak Out, and lobbies political figures around the world to end gender-based violence. In particular, Mothers’ Union is calling for: prevention of gender-based violence through education and awareness raising; legislation that protects women and girls from, and criminalises, all forms of gender-based violence; adequate provision of services for survivors of gender-based violence; and the rehabilitation of perpetrators.

In the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. ‘there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.’ (UN 2008) We know that we can stay silent no longer about gender-based violence, and while there is breath in our lungs we will speak out!