International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Why the IRC launched the Domestic Violence Think-In

Carrie Ross Welch is senior vice president of external relations for the International Rescue Committee. The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. gyro is the IRC’s creative agency and a long-time collaborator with Hyper Island.

This post first appeared on Forbes.com.
 
Today nearly 450 of the brightest minds in advertising are expected to come together in Sweden at Hyper Island. They have four days to address a neglected humanitarian crisis: domestic violence in developing countries. During this “think-in,” the students are tasked with generating ideas to raise awareness and donations for the important and often overlooked issue. gyro, the global ideas shop, is slated to lead the session.
 
We are hoping that the world joins the conversation by visiting ircthinkin.com. Students plan to use Twitter (hashtag #ircthinkin), Facebook.com/ircthinkin and the video-sharing application Viddy.com to share what they learned and solicit feedback.
 
It promises to be a powerful conversation. Why? Because domestic violence in developing nations is an often overlooked atrocity.
 
Consider this: Today a young girl prepares to meet her future husband in Sierra Leone. During this time of celebration, her parents give her advice for a successful marriage: Be obedient, work hard for your family, have many children and be a good mother to them. They also impart words of wisdom to her husband: Discipline your wife. They then give him a stick with which to beat their daughter—anytime she fails to meet his expectations.
 
This and other brutal crimes against women are occurring in homes across West Africa and little is being done to address it. Late last month, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) launched a report documenting the pervasive domestic abuse that women experience in the Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This report finds that in these war-ravaged countries, one of the primary threats to a woman’s health and well-being is not a stranger or a man with a gun, but rather her own husband.
 
Recently, the humanitarian community and international donors have advanced on this issue. This year, the United States launched a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, a historic accomplishment for the Obama Administration in solidifying U.S. commitment to women. Since 2008, the United Nations Security Council has adopted three separate resolutions recognizing conflict-related sexual violence as a threat to international peace and security.
 
Domestic violence is not only a primary threat to women’s protection, but it is also one of the biggest barriers to women’s empowerment. The numbers speak for themselves. When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. When an investment is made in a girl or woman, she invests 90 percent into her families, as opposed to the 30 to 40 percent that a boy or a man would invest. Violence is a disinvestment in women, choking off the vast potential they offer.
 
An IRC commission on domestic violence recently traveled to Liberia and Sierra Leone, to further understand the impact of domestic violence and the viewpoint of leaders tasked with addressing it. In conversations, whether with government ministers, UN officials or tribal chiefs, we posed the question: Is domestic violence a priority? In each case, the response was a resounding “no.” Yet the reasons for inaction varied: It’s a private matter, too cultural, too complicated, and frankly while dealing with the aftermath of all the other atrocities of war, many said there had been too little time to take on this cause. Despite concern, much goodwill and acknowledgment of the need to do more, more simply hadn’t happened yet.
 
The humanitarian community—donors, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies—must put money where their mouths are. Though we know that women are smart investments, pitifully little funding actually flows into their hands. Strategies and plans provide key frameworks for action, but without money to back them up, they are just words on paper. If we are to make a dent in improving women’s lives and ending the violence that restricts their potential and ambitions, resources must match rhetoric.
 
Join the conversation and help us put a stop to domestic violence. Visit ircthinkin.com
 
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Domestic violence is still on

Domestic violence is still on the rise our global world today. Education is the key to that might decrease domestic violence in our global world. Read on and see how education can decrease domestic violence Violence Against Women Is someone Out There!!! Is someone out there to hear my cry when I am giving birth in a culture where they taught that giving birth to a baby for women is a natural process? It is not a medical doctor hands that call the child but rather God’s hands that call the child. I cried, cried until almost no more breath left in me. My strength to push my baby was fading. All I could hear from the elders is you are afraid. “That is the way your mother gave birth to you and that is how all of us here sitting around you gave birth to our children”. All you need is push, push and the baby is out. Don’t kill your husbands’ child or else he is going to marry a second wife. You need to push I heard someone from the group. Grandmother came and wiped my tears and said, “Dry your tears my granddaughter and push hard”. I am trying very hard grandma to push the baby out, but I just can’t. I call again “Is someone out there to hear my cry, to listen to me”. A voice inside me said, “No one is hearing me”. Why? The drumming in the room, the clapping of hands, the talking going amongst the women telling their stories of being a woman outnumbered my little faded voice. These noises are annoying and lead to poor communication. It is not about poor communication for my people; it is about men not to hear my cry of agony. I waited for death to come and take me to my resting place forever. At the same time I prayed to God to save me from this grief for the sake of my two children. Meditating in my pain I said to myself, I have the obligation to take care of them, feed them, cloth them, train and educate them regardless of my husband’s contribution. I want to see them climb the ladder top. I want to look up to the top of the ladder of success, cry with joy and smile and say aloud “I am a woman, indispensable, able, capable, conqueror and I did it all” “Are you sleeping?,” an elderly woman asked me. Unable to raise my head from the pillow I was lying from, I answered “No”. Somebody is knocking at the door. “Open the door,” said the traditional doctor to one of the women. A community development worker walked in, “Good afternoon,” said the community worker with a surprised expression on her face. “What are you staring at? Are you not a woman? Don’t you have children ?,” asked the traditional healer. “Yes ,I have given birth to children ,but at the hospital.” “You are lucky you went to school that why you are talking about hospital said the traditional healer. “Hospitals are not for the educated alone, but for all members of the human race in need of medical care .” said the community worker. “How can we go the hospital when we do not have one here in our village ,” said the traditional healer. “The closest hospital from our village is a four hour paddle in our canoe, and if we are to walk on foot is a whole day.” said the traditional healer. Help me ,is someone out there? With a hit on my leg, a lady said “You are afraid to push the baby, that all”. The community worker bit her lip with disbelief, and shock. The community worker asked the traditional healer “how long is this lady in labor?” “She has being in labor since the first cockcrow and the mangrove swamp tide is now very low, that’s how long she has been in labor”. “Can we try another method by going to the hospital?” The community worker told the traditional healer that she would ask her speedboat driver to take them to the nearest hospital. The traditional healer said “We cannot answer your question because we as women do not have power to decide, wait for me here, I am going to ask the husband.” Ten minutes later the husband and the traditional healer came. The community worker was called to meet the husband who was standing five meters away as it is a taboo for men to go to the delivery house.1 The community worker advised the husband to take the wife to the hospital. “Why hospital?” asked the husband, “Our wives have being given birth this way and now you want to change things in this village”. The community worker answered, “Changes in some of our practices is not a bad thing, but a good thing. During every month of your wife’s pregnancy you saw changes in your wife’s physical appearance from the first month to the nine-month. When she will give birth you will see changes in the baby until he/she is an adult. If there are no changes from the above example, people in this village will be worried. So you see why change is good in this context”. “Ok, let us go to the hospital,” said the husband. The community worker went to the delivery room and told the traditional healer that the husband has agreed that his wife should be taken to the hospital. The community worker heard the pregnant woman’s voice “Is someone out there?” “Yes, someone is here to listen to you, we are taking you to the hospital,” said the community worker. “For every fifty women who cry for help under these circumstances only one woman is heard,”said the pregnant woman. At the hospital it was discovered that the woman was not able to give birth naturally, but through C-section. She gave birth to a baby girl who was already dead in her womb. She felt it so much because she was not able to hold her baby so that she would hear her story. The woman said thanks to God for her life because she has to be there for her two other children, and also say thanks because someone was out there to listen to her cry of isolation, depression, suppression, and discrimination because she is a woman. Yes I am a woman, and a proud woman. I will always be. From Melrose Koineh Winnipeg Central Park Women's Resource Centre Program Coordinator Canada For all the unspoken voices of women in Africa.

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