International Women's Day: Help end violence against women

Help end violence in countries such as Papua New Guinea.


I am not sure that gender equality has ever been more widely debated in the mainstream media as it has been in the last 12 months.   Mainstream media is paying attention to women’s issues, and women’s media outlets are finally getting the attention and credit they deserve.  Among this increased attention are reports of issues affecting women every day in Australia and overseas, such as the pay gap, balancing work and family, and violence against women.  If any women’s issue has grabbed the nation’s attention in the past six months, it’s violence against women.  The gang rape and death of a young student in India, Malala Yousafzai shot in the head by the Taliban, a woman burned alive for ‘sorcery’ in Papua New Guinea, the tragic and cruel death of Jill Meagher.  The coverage of these high-profile cases is very important, however we must not lose sight of everyday stories of neglect and violence which so rarely make the news.  I wonder what it would take to turn momentary public outrage about specific incidents into a lasting drive for change and world free from violence.

After all, we don’t have to look very far to find such cases of systemic, repeated violence. A woman denied access to her money by a controlling spouse, a woman forced into sex by a man who believes it to be his right and her duty, a woman who knows that if she disagrees with her husband or father or makes him angry, his anger will become physical; a girl whose genitals are cut off in the name of her ‘honour’ .  The instances of violence prevent women and their children from living full lives, free from fear.  One in three Australian women will experience violence in her lifetime.  Not all of these instances will be headline-grabbing.  All of these instances however are worthy of our attention.  All of these women are victims of unthinkable, unacceptable crimes.  All of these cases would never happen in a world that valued men and women’s lives equally.

Both the ‘sensational’ and the ‘pervasive’ instances of violence are equally unacceptable and both must be prevented.  However by focussing solely on the sensational, or international instances of violence, we can fool ourselves into believing that violence is someone else’s problem, another country’s problem certainly not our problem.


Our attention may have been fixated for a day, a week, even two weeks on the sufferings of young Malala, the young Indian student and Jill, however their suffering and the suffering of their families continues to this day and will continue for longer than the public attention lasts.

This International Women’s Day, my heart goes out to all of the families of women and children who are living with, or have lived through violence.   I will be taking a moment to think about the tens of thousands of women who have lost their lives at the hands of an intimate partner.   I encourage those who hear of these horrific crimes against women and are outraged, to use their indignation and turn it into lasting action that can change the lives of women and girls for the better.

UN Women Australia is fundraising this International Women’s Day to fund projects around the world which will provide critical services to women experiencing violence.  Funds raised will go towards medical and psychological care, safe housing, legal assistance and education and training to assist women survivors of violence. It is this kind of support that is needed to assist women to survive violent situations and one day, to regain independence.

For less than the cup of coffee you are considering today, you could be providing a woman with counselling support.  For less than dinner on Friday night, you could support UN Women to train the police in PNG to respond to violence against women.

Please help where you can and donate to our work to end violence against women


Julie McKay is the Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women

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