WORLD DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Violence against women and girls remains one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world. It is estimated that 736 million women worldwide – almost one in three – have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner, non-partner sexual violence, or both, at least once in their lives.
In 2021 alone, an estimated 45,000 women and girls worldwide were murdered by their partners or other family members. This means that, on average, more than five women or girls are killed every hour by someone in their own family. Annually, an estimated 500,000 to 2,000,000 people in the world, mostly women and children, are actively exploited and trafficked each year for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labour.
Violence against women has intensified in various settings, including the workplace and the internet, and has been worsened by post-pandemic impacts, conflict and the climate crisis.
November 25 has been designated as the World Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and in celebration of this day, Médecins du Monde wants the world to learn about M’s story, a story that is inextricably linked to gender equality and the fight to eliminate gender-based violence.
‘I will teach my daughter that her body is her own and belongs to no one’
THREATS ON HER LIFE AND MULTIPLE RAPES
When her father passed away at the age of 16, M., accompanied by her mother, decided to leave Cameroon as her uncle wanted to marry her against her will. The two were forced to travel for many days and during their journey they were in danger several times until they reached their goal of securing a better life.
The conditions of their journey were adverse and many were those who asked M. for sexual acts in exchange for help and guidance on her difficult journey. M. received several death threats and was repeatedly raped. As a result of the repeated sexual abuse M. became pregnant without her knowledge. However, the journey of hope and survival does not stop here…
M. and her mother finally managed to reach Turkey from where they were taken by boat to Greece. However, their boat capsized and M.’s mother drowned, leaving her alone and underage in a new and unknown world. It took her some time to realise that she was pregnant and when she realised it, she could not take any action to stop her pregnancy. So, she made the decision that she would do everything possible to give her child the life she hadn’t experienced and she succeeded.
With a child in her arms, still a child herself, her role in life changed. From a little girl under the protection of a mother, she found herself a minor mother, responsible for protecting the daughter she was expecting.
FROM CHILD TO UNDERAGE MOTHER
In the first days of her adulthood, M. was referred to the Open Accommodation Center for Vulnerable Women of Médecins du Monde, where she still resides today. With the support of the staff of the facility, she has been able to resolve the medical issues she was facing, several of them the result of the gender-based violence she had suffered, under the close supervision of the medical staff of the MdM Polyclinic. Her daughter is enrolled in a kindergarten which gives her enough time to concentrate on herself and discover new opportunities for her future. Now M. is working legally in a local business, attending Greek language classes, is now an independent, strong single mother and aspires to take the next step forward, leaving all the difficult experiences in the past behind.
‘I finally feel safe and that my life has taken a normal turn. I wake up in the morning and cook for my daughter, take her to school and I go to work… I can finally dream. I dream of staying in Greece forever, creating a safe environment for my child and teaching her growing up that her body belongs to her’.
M. took “A Step Forward” by setting new goals and can now feel safe, living freely and defining her life as she wishes.
Every day, violence against women and girls remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame that surround it. It continues to be an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development, peace and the fulfilment of the human rights of women and girls.