The annual 18-day national campaign for the International Day against Violence Against Women (VAW) started Nov. 25. It peaked Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, and will close today, Dec. 12, which commemorates the signing of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
Despite local and global campaigns to eradicate violence against women, the number of such cases has increased, a reminder that solving the problem needs the cooperation of everyone.
I have always been concerned about violence against women but ever since I’ve had a daughter, I have felt my passion for the issue strengthen profoundly.
The idea that we are raising our daughters, keeping them as safe and healthy as possible, only for someone to push them around later—whether physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically or financially—is infuriating for any parent.
No to victim blaming
It is never, ever the victim’s fault. And we as parents have the responsibility to teach this to our daughters and help ensure that they will not be anyone’s victim.
I have thought about my daughter and realized that while I have been encouraging and empowering her, I have never brought up the possibility that somebody might come and try to take away what we have taught her.
I have wondered if it happened to her, would she recognize the signs of abuse? Would she know what to do and where to get help? How would she feel, and would those feelings prevent her escape from such a situation?
Many times, the woman suffering abuse does not realize what is happening until it is too late. Why? What makes a woman keep silent rather than fight? Why is the stigma of shame so overwhelming that a woman would remain silent?
These are questions we need to discuss with our daughters. Maybe the way to beat this social problem is to make our daughters so familiar with it so that even at the slightest abuse, their internal warning systems will scream danger.
No gray areas
Let there be no gray areas. No matter how small, a violent act is a violent act. It should be stopped immediately lest it worsens.
Should it happen still, how do we give our daughters the survival skills they need to overcome their trauma and report it immediately? How do we ensure that they will not be wrongly shamed into keeping silent?
Answers to these questions vary from one woman to another, but I hope that by inculcating in our daughters a sense of self-esteem, they will not tolerate any form of violence against their persons.
However, it’s not just our daughters we need to have this conversation with. Just as important, we need to educate our sons. It is about time we made them equally responsible in fighting violence against women and making sure that they are as enlightened as our daughters.
As parents, we should teach our sons how to respect and treat women. We should increase their awareness of violence against women as a growing social problem so that they, too, may be informed enough to spot when a woman is being maltreated.
Hopefully, if they should witness or become aware of someone in such a situation, they will have the courage to step in and help bring the perpetrators to justice.
Our sons need to know that even if they never do anything to hurt women, if an act of violence occurs in front of them, or they are aware of it but keep quiet, their silence is condonation and tolerance.
While we have come a long way in the fight against violence against women, there is still much to be done, to ensure that this ends with our generation. No woman, not our sisters, friends or daughters, deserves to be a victim of violence and it is up to us to put a stop to it once and for all.