International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2021

UN Women orange banner image for EVAW

Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now! 

25 November 2021

By Joanna Mott, Water for Women Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist

On international days, it's customary to provide statistics to show how serious the situation is. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) is no exception. Nearly one in three women have been abused in their lifetime, and we know that these numbers have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they also do in humanitarian conflicts and climate related disasters.

We all know these statistics and many more, which paint a global picture of pervasive and systemic violence against women, girls, gender non-binary and transgender people – they can be overwhelming and the risk is that we become paralysed for action. This is why the colour orange was chosen to represent EVAW Day and the 16 Days of Activism from 25 November to 10 December, coinciding with Human Rights Day – an optimistic colour of hope to reflect a world free from violence against women and girls.

Empowering women and girls, including those with disabilities and those from disadvantaged communities, is critical to their human rights, to leaving no one behind and the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 5 – Gender equality, and SDG 6 – clean water and sanitation for all.

In the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, we know this well, and we are starting to understand better the detrimental impacts of gender-based violence on women and girls, and how this can affect their ability to participate fully in society – in community decision-making, in livelihood opportunities, in the workforce, at school and in public institutions. We are also getting better equipped at understanding the crucial role the WASH sector can and does play as an entry point for addressing gender-based violence.

Traditionally, this has been related to making the connections between the safety, privacy and accessibility of WASH infrastructure and mitigating the risk of violence. Planning for waterpoints that are closer to home, having an accessible toilet in the household, well-lit public toilets, and single sex toilets at schools are some examples of this. While we know these measures are critically important, we are becoming increasingly aware that as a sector, we cannot stop there if we are to really shift the dial.

This is why Water for Women projects are implementing a range of strategies to address gender-based violence and support women’s empowerment, which look at ways to tackle entrenched gender norms and stereotypes that inhibit the participation of women and girls. The more rigid the gender stereotypes, the more enabling the environment is for gender-based violence. Some examples of ways in which negative and limiting gender stereotypes for both women and men are being addressed in the Fund include:

  • Engaging with women’s organisations, organisations for people with disabilities and organisations supporting sexual and gender minorities in WASH policy and planning at community and institutional levels
  • Supporting the development of referral pathways for social services and support networks
  • Being purposeful about Do No Harm for women’s empowerment and leadership initiatives
  • Promoting the importance of men in care roles through hygiene behaviour change work
  • De-stigmatising menstrual health and hygiene by involving both men and women in community awareness activities.

In diverse ways, the Fund is looking at this very real problem so that ‘orange’ becomes the norm, and women and girls in all their diversities can live in a world free from violence, so that the one in three is a statistic of the past.


(image: UN Women 2021)


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