Shahin Ashraf MBE, Islamic Relief’s Global Advocacy Advisor, is coordinating the global campaign and shares her daily observations of the work Islamic Relief is doing around the world.
Poverty and GBV can often be closely linked, especially where women lack the autonomy and freedom to make decisions that affect their lives. The story of Hajra, aged 22 from West Bengal, India, is a heart-breaking example.
Hajra was forced into marriage with a man that her father had taken a loan from. Unable to repay the loan, he agreed that the man could marry his daughter. Hajra had no choice in the transaction. When she became pregnant, she learned that her husband had secretly remarried. That’s when the abuse began. He neglected and tortured her. On one occasion, he beat her and tried to set her alight with kerosene.
Hajra was seriously injured and partially blinded in the attack, for which she underwent intense treatment. Towards the end of her pregnancy she was abandoned by her husband and returned to the parental home where she gave birth to a baby boy. Unable to pay the rent, she was expected to cook meals for the entire family twice a day.
As a humanitarian agency, Islamic Relief’s is committed to tackling the root causes of injustice. In our rush to deliver food, water, shelter and healthcare, aid agencies often neglect the hidden suffering linked to poverty and crises. On these 16 Days of Activism, it is really encouraging that the international community is more united than ever in addressing GBV issues as part of its humanitarian and development work.
The numbers are harrowing:
- One in three women experience gender-based violence at some point in their lives.
- Up to half of all sexual assaults are on girls under the age of 16.
- Around 60 million girls are forced into marriage before the age of 18.
- 200 million girls have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM).
- Women with disabilities are three times more likely to be subjected to violence.
We often think of GBV as domestic violence but it can take different forms in different societies. Yes it can mean physical and sexual violence, but it can also be psychological abuse and financial exploitation. For some it results in human trafficking, harassment and coercive behaviour. Those living in poverty and crisis situations are even more vulnerable, especially if their human rights are already being violated.
Today, Islamic Relief teams around the world are sharing infographics that highlight the scale of the problem. This is an important starting point. GBV is a problem we cannot and should not ignore. Share the facts and stats with others and help raise awareness during these 16 days.
We’re really excited to be launching the 16 Days of Activism campaign with White Ribbon Day today! Islamic Relief offices around the world are taking part and have lots of activities lined up for the next 16 days.
Here at the Islamic Relief Worldwide offices in Birmingham UK, staff came together to show their support with white ribbons and placards. They heard from a forced marriage survivor who came in and spoke about her traumatic experiences. Samera, 23, was taken to Pakistan at the age of 16 by her uncle and forcibly married to a 23 year-old man. He turned out to be a member of a gang who was armed, violent and controlling. It took Samera a year and a half to escape the marriage. Thankfully, she has now built a new life for herself but the past still haunts her.
There are many women and girls like Samera who cannot escape abusive situations because they lack access to support. Islamic Relief works to empower them and give them a voice. We also educate communities on GBV issues, engaging men and women, girls and boys so that we can help prevent human suffering and injustice. Join us on this journey!