One of the biggest problems faced by women in poor countries is violence and discrimination. At every turn girls and women find opportunities blocked and their safety compromised.
If you want some figures, 150 million girls under the age of 18 have been raped or subjected to other forms of sexual assault. 140 million women and girls have been victims of female genital mutilation. And the list goes on.
Violence against women is unacceptable and has to stop. At the most fundamental level the continuing violence, whether physical, sexual or psychological is rooted in gender discrimination. When women are seen as less than men it’s all too easy for them to become objects to be treated worse than animals.
But why is gender discrimination still happening? We all know that this form of discrimination goes on around the world, even in our own country it’s far more prevalent than we’d care to admit. But in the world’s poorest countries violence against women and gender discrimination are often caused by the following:
· Poverty. A life of poverty places girls and women in a precarious situation. Often they will turn to prostitution to feed themselves or their families. They put themselves at greater risk of rape and assault, and due to cultural attitudes relating to sex and prostitution may be the victim of attacks from the community. Stresses and strains in poor households can result in eruptions of physical violence against women.
· Lack Of Education. In many ways this is intimately tied to the above cause. In societies where violence against women is prevalent there is a distinct lack of education on both sides of the gender divide.
In these cultures girls tend to get little or no formal schooling, and research has shown that education has a positive impact on violence against women. Education provides a safe environment for young girls, it also helps them become active citizens with more choice, able to secure better employment and lift them out of poverty. It also changes their attitudes, making them less likely to view violence as acceptable.
From a male perspective there is little in the way of education against violence against women, so the attitudes that support it go unchallenged.
· Lack Of Participation. Girls in the 10-14 age range are at particular risk of violence due to a lack of participation in society. They are pushed to the edges, have no control over their own lives and their thoughts and feelings are given short shrift. As a result they become dependent on those around them and the nature of their relationships often becomes power based and imbalanced, which leads to an increase in violence against women.
· Cultural Attitudes. In most countries where violence against women is common it is often related to cultural attitudes surrounding gender roles and the status of women. When women are seen as less important and capable than men, where girls are seen as a burden on their families and where women and girls in poverty are driven to prostitution for survival, violence towards them is seen as acceptable.
The negative effects of violence against women are deeper and further reaching than the awful individual physical and psychological damage. On a wider scale the attitudes that surround, support and cause violence against women damage communities and also hinder the economic prosperity of societies.
To find out more about violence against women and how you can help visit Plan UK here http://www.plan-uk.org/what-we-do/campaigns/because-i-am-a-girl/