real life

Some relationships aren’t worth celebrating this Valentine’s day.

There are better gifts you can give than giant balloons and stuffed animals this Friday.

Ah, Valentine’s Day.

If you can get past its hyped-up, commercialised veneer – and survive the competitive sport that is booking a restaurant on the 14th of February – there’s definitely something awesome about the day.

After all, it’s the one time that PDIs and massive bunches of flowers in the workplace are publically condoned, it gives us an excuse to write poetry more soulful than Kristen Stewart’s, and – once you get past the sickening stuffed animals that, frankly, have no business beyond a fairground shooting game – there’s something cool about a day that gives us a free pass to make each other feel valued and loved in the most over-the-top ways possible.

But while we’re appreciating how happy our relationships make us during Friday’s festival of love, maybe we can also appreciate how lucky we are.

Because many of us have relationships actually worth celebrating – but some people don’t share that luck.

Women every day suffer violence at the hands of their partners and families. One in three women will experience violence in her lifetime – and that equates to one billion women worldwide.

One. Billion. Women.

Scarily, sexual assault rates in Australasia are more than double the world average, according to a new study in medical journal The Lancet.

In Australia, the study says, 16.4 percent of women aged 15 or older report sexual violence at least once in their lives.

Some women lose their lives to this violence. Others live in constant fear of ongoing emotional, sexual or physical abuse by their intimate partners.

Even those who aren’t directly abused can often sense the omnipresent culture of violence against women in our culture – when they’re heckled on the street, threatened online or subjected to the casual glorification of gender-based violence in the media.

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It’s easy to get carried away with gifts on Valentine’s Day. Is there something more meaningful you could give?

Of course, these realities don’t mean we have to give up on Valentine’s Day – but they do signal a reason to cherish more closely our autonomy to lead secure, contented and safe lives.

So this Friday, while you’re reflecting on your own relationship, take a minute to think about whether you could have done more to help those around you in unhappy relationships or protect those left vulnerable by them.

And remember that there are still things we can do, right now, to help others enjoys these things.

For example, consider settling for the second most expensive bottle of champagne or the second biggest box of chocolates- and instead donating some of your budget to helping improve the lives of women everywhere.

It’s estimated that Australians will spend a whopping $790 million celebrating Valentine’s Day this year, with an average spend of $86 per gift. If everyone just gave just $7 of that massive sum – the price of a card – to help, you could enable a woman who has experienced violence to access counselling.

For just $10, you could help ensure that women who are experiencing violence every day have access to basic services and support to build a life free from violence.

And for $100- the price of a dinner out- you could help UN Women fund a bus service for women in Port Moresby who currently cannot get to work safely.

For just a few dollars this Friday, we could change the lives of women and girls across the world.  And if it were your Valentine that needed help, would that too much to pay?

Visit this page to make a difference in the lives of women and girls worldwide.

What will you be doing to help women in unhealthy relationships this Valentine’s Day?