Reflections on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, November 25

A guest post by Alyssa Mouton, Taubman Health Sciences Library’s Global Health Assistant and MPH/MPP student: 

I was fortunate to have been raised in a family that instilled in me the conviction of the equality of men and women. Thus, violence against women in any form, for me, was always viewed as an unacceptable aberration from the norm. This early teaching has greatly influenced my worldview as an aspiring global public health policy advocate. As Hannah Rosin, author of The End of Men describes in her controversial book, there is evidence to support that women worldwide are successfully breaking into formerly male-dominated political and social spaces. That said, even the optimistic Rosin doesn’t go so far as to assert that women have won the war for their equity, freedom and peace.

November 25th, commemorated worldwide annually as The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, serves to remind us that there are stories that we as Americans often don’t hear as part of mainstream discourse about women’s rights and health. The reality is that many women and young girls worldwide live in a socially-constructed environment of economic, social and political disadvantage that limits their ability to challenge the violence they face, and also to speak out about their experiences.

According to Women Thrive Worldwide, “One out of every three women worldwide will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused during her lifetime with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries.” From a global public health perspective, violence against women leads to health problems not only for women, but also often for their children. The myriad health effects of gendered violence also create economic and social disadvantages that can further harm women’s biological and mental health, as well as the health of their families. Since everyone in existence was born to a woman, gendered violence has the potential to affect every individual in society (including U.S. society), not only those with two x chromosomes.

So this weekend, as we are all basking in the afterglow of Thanksgiving’s bounty of delicious food, family and football, I invite you to reflect, research and talk about the injustice of gendered violence as it manifests both worldwide and in the U.S. Even more so than a good turkey meal, listening to the somber, but often courageous and inspiring stories of women challenging societal violence makes me thankful- for my equity, freedom and peace.

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