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World YWCA - 15/10/2012 - Today marks the beginning of the World YWCA Week Without Violence. For decades, the World YWCA movement has taken action in communities, schools, workplaces and public forums to raise awareness of violence against women, its widespread existence, and its impact on families and societies.

Violence against women is the world's largest pandemic. Partner assault, child marriage, "honour" killings and rape as a weapon of war: these and many other crimes are committed against women because they are women. Violence against women (VAW) is not only a violation of women's human rights to safety and self-determination; it also holds families, communities and countries back. It keeps half the world's population from contributing fully to their local and national economies and from moving the world to its full potential.  

The recognition of VAW as a violation of fundamental human rights is fairly recent. The   United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (GA Resolution 48/104, 20 December 1993), effected this recognition only in 1993, and defines VAW as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life."

Supplementing this is a range of international conventions that attempt to flesh out the various forms of violence that women face in divergent capacities and situations as they surface. Amongst them are the Convention on the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, which relates to trafficking of women and girls, and the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which relates to protection of women refugees. In addition, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) now recognises and prosecutes sexual and gender violence such as rape, sexual slavery (including trafficking of women), enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy and enforced sterilisation as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is another important landmark in the fight against VAW. General Recommendation 19 states "the definition of discrimination includes gender-based violence, that is, violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty." (CEDAW/GR/19/6). Numerous world conferences on women's human rights, such as the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, also helped to create a platform for activists to meet, exchange and form networks for continued strategising. This enabled greater awareness and the building of new knowledge in relation to VAW.

Women's movements, such as the World YWCA, are advocating for an end to VAW and are surfacing new instances and types of VAW that were previously under politicised. Throughout its long history the World YWCA has engaged and campaigned on many different platforms and has worked with a plethora of partners to bring attention to this problem that affects one out of every three women globally. The World YWCA has played an important role in advocating for the implementation of key global commitments of women, young women and girls' rights in the context of VAW through CEDAW mechanisms, the Commission on the Status of Women, the   Human Rights Council, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820, to name but a few. Throughout the years the World YWCA has been engaging the movement and its partners in the process, advocating and delivering effective intervention programmes and services on VAW. Across the movement, about 70 Member Associations focus on VAW as the main priority of their work. One important campaign for our movement is the YWCA Week Without Violence.

The YWCA Week Without Violence is an annual global campaign that takes place in the third week of October and it is designed to mobilise local communities to condemn violence in all its forms and to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts. During the Week Without Violence, and leading up to the 16 Days of Activism to Stop Violence Against Women, the World YWCA calls upon the YWCA members and partners worldwide to reflect together and explore ways in which we can prevent all forms of violence. How can we recognise violence in our lives or in the lives of the women around us? What international mechanisms exist that protect you or the women in your communities? What can you do to make a change?  

During the Week Without Violence, we will highlight VAW on our website and our blog. Make sure to connect with us to learn more about VAW and the work that we do and share with us your ideas and plans for the week at: