For Immediate Release

Office of Press Relations

Statement by Administrator Samantha Power

The World Health Organization estimates that one in three women globally is subjected to physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, and as of 2023, more than 640 million women and girls were married before the age of 18. 

And throughout the world, conflict-related sexual violence is a too-often overlooked and underreported crime. Right now in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, armed and organized groups are using the escalating conflict to prey on women and girls in increasingly coordinated ways – child trafficking, kidnapping, and forcing women and girls into labor in one of at least 145 brothels operating in North and South Kivu.

These crimes are often invisible: for each rape reported in connection with a conflict, the United Nations estimates that 10 to 20 cases go undocumented.

As we commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we remain deeply committed to ending this scourge of violence. Today kicks off the annual global advocacy campaign, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which runs through Human Rights Day on December 10. This year’s theme, UNITE! Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls, emphasizes that everyone has a role to play in protecting women’s and girls’ fundamental right to safety. 

Harassment, threats, and abuse directed at women and girls affect countless aspects of their lives, from mental and physical health to the ability to pursue an education and work opportunities. Gender-based violence is a significant barrier to civic, social, political, legal, and economic participation for women and girls around the world. 

And today, digital technologies have made it possible to spread gender-based violence at greater scale, speed, and reach. Women public figures, such as politicians, activists, and journalists, are particularly affected – with almost 75 percent of women journalists worldwide indicating they have experienced online violence to harm and silence them. Technology-facilitated gender-based violence also poses particular risks for those from historically marginalized communities, including persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+ persons, and racial, ethnic, or religious minorities. 

At USAID, we are working to reduce, prevent, and address gender-based violence through both our programming and advocacy. In conflict areas, the protection of women and girls, particularly amongst displaced communities, is a key priority in USAID’s humanitarian responses.

In non-conflict settings, we work to advance the safe and meaningful participation of women and girls in political, peacebuilding, and transition processes. For example, USAID contributes to the Biden-Harris Administration’s participation in the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, working with other partner countries to share best practices and promising new approaches to prevent technology-facilitated gender-based violence targeting women in politics and public life. Earlier this year, as a Global Partnership deliverable, USAID launched a pilot program in three countries to test innovative approaches for preventing and responding to technology-facilitated gender-based violence. We will share lessons from this pilot to inform global efforts addressing this growing problem. 

As we kick off these 16 Days of Activism, let us recommit to taking on gender-based violence and protecting women’s and girls’ fundamental right to participate fully – and safely – in society.

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