During conflict and its aftermath, if international attention turns to women at all, it focuses on violence by armed men. The International Rescue Committee’s new study of post-conflict West Africa has found that the most dangerous place for a woman is often in her own home.
In more than 15 years of providing services to women affected by violence, the International Rescue Committee has seen enormous progress in the number and quality of programmes and services designed to keep women safe. These efforts have overwhelmingly focused in the public side of violence—risks faced outside the home. The IRC’s new study, Let Me Not Die Before My Time (also available for download from the publications link at the bottom of this page), based on a decade of working with women in Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, has found that more than 60 percent of women seeking assistance from the IRC in West Africa are survivors of violence committed by a partner.
Violence in the home takes many forms. Physical assault is most often reported and can range from being pushed or punched, to rape, attack with weapons like machetes and even burnings. However, violence in the home also includes emotional and economic abuse. Men limit women’s access to food or deny them control of money needed to buy medicine for a sick child or to pay school fees. Domestic violence not only poses a risk to women’s lives and health, but critically undermines efforts to pull societies affected by conflict out of poverty.
The scale of domestic violence is not unique to West Africa. The IRC’s experience in the Democratic Republic of the Congo indicates high levels of violence in the home, while our recent emergency assessment of people displaced by fighting in the Nuba Mountains in South Sudan revealed that domestic violence was the most common form of violence experienced by women. Despite such evidence, the humanitarian community—donors, nongovernmental organisations and UN agencies—has still not prioritised domestic violence as a humanitarian issue. This must change.
Some facts and figures:
- Since 1996, the IRC has provided assistance to women and girls affected by violence through innovative programmes in 20 countries around the world. With more than 300 field staff, the IRC not only provides care and treatment to survivors of violence, but also works to prevent further violence, and to stimulate long-term change, by empowering women in their daily lives.
- In 2011, the IRC counselled and cared for nearly 16,000 survivors of sexual violence and educated and mobilised over 590,000 men, women and children to lead prevention efforts in their communities.
What you can do!
On the occasion of Mother’s Day 2012, IRC-UK launched Wake Up, our online pledge drive aimed at raising awareness about the challenges faced by women and girls around the world and highlighting simple ways to help them survive and thrive.
Some things can wait until tomorrow. Standing up for women and girls isn’t one of them.
To find out more about the Wake Up campaign, and crucially, to sign the pledge, see here.