In Angola, where I was Ambassador from 1995-1998, I witnessed firsthand the broad effects gender-based violence can have on a society. On the heels of the civil war there, demobilized soldiers were returning to their villages. Often, what should have been happy homecomings were turning into just the opposite. Out of place in societies that had learned to live without them in decades of absence, the former soldiers’ alienation produced a rash of domestic violence and rape. It was as if the end of the civil war produced an even more pernicious violence against women.
The problem of gender-based violence is not unique to post-conflict situations. In fact, it’s a global pandemic that cuts across ethnicity, race, culture, class, religion, and educational level. One in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
Women and girls are disproportionally affected by gender-based violence. But men and boys can also be affected; and, in addition, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face heightened risk of experiencing violence, including sexual violence.
President Obama recognizes the importance of addressing issues related to gender-based violence.
On Friday, I had the privilege to participate in a White House event to release the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally. The Strategy is an interagency response to a Congressional request, led by USAID and the U.S. Department of State.
The strategy establishes a government-wide approach that identifies, coordinates, integrates, and leverages current efforts and resources. It sets concrete goals and actions to be implemented and monitored by Federal Agencies. In addition, President Obama issued an Executive Order that creates an interagency working group co-chaired by the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the USAID and directs departments and agencies to implement the new United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally.
Gender-based violence undermines not only the safety, dignity, overall health status, and human rights of the millions of individuals who experience it, but also the public health, economic stability, and security of nations.
I look forward to helping our Missions and operating units in Washington translate the strategy into meaningful action for millions of men, women, and children worldwide. In order to combat gender-based violence, we must redouble our efforts to change attitudes and behaviors by engaging men and boys and empowering women and girls. Realizing this vision requires the collective efforts of all. USAID is committed to working in collaboration with other USG agencies, NGOs, faith based communities, private sector companies, and most importantly, women and men around the world impacted by gender-based violence.
To learn more about the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally, please visit http://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment.