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Letter From the President

by Hanna Rabah

Dear WI-HER community,

Dr. Taroub

When Covid-19 first spread in early 2020, the world was focused on keeping people safe and healthy, and many countries instituted lockdowns and restricted movement. Unfortunately, many of these measures had unintended negative consequences: victims, particularly women and girls, were confined with their abusers. This led to what is now known as a “shadow pandemic”—a pandemic of gender-based violence.

Before Covid-19, one in three women had experienced some form of violence, often at the hands of an intimate partner, according to the UN. While data is still being collected, it is clear that the pandemic exacerbated an already terrible situation: more and more individuals have experienced various forms of gender-based violence (GBV), including physical, sexual, emotional, and economic violence. GBV is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue. It is a global health issue, one that we all must work together to address.

Since WI-HER’s founding in 2011, my team has been dedicated to strengthening the commitment and coordination of local communities, organizations, and governments to prevent and respond to GBV as well as improve and manage the care of survivors. At times this has involved advocating for policy-level changes, such as the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act in Nigeria; strengthening primary health care systems to identify, manage, and care for survivors; addressing gaps in GBV case identification and care and conducting online training of county government trainers to support them in screening, identifying, and providing direct services, such as counseling, to survivors of GBV.

While a lot has been done, there is still so much to do if we are going to make real, sustainable strides toward ending GBV. Awareness—and understanding what GBV is and how to help those who have experienced GBV—is not just a first step; it is a step that we must repeat again and again until everyone understands the need to prevent and respond to GBV.

With that in mind, it is time for the annual 16 days of Activism campaign. This campaign was created 31 years ago, to bring both awareness to and accountability around GBV and related issues such as femicide, the intentional and unintentional killing of women. Over the next 16 days, we will share products that have been curated and developed by WI-HER staff and professionals we work with in different countries to highlight our experiences, stories, public resources, and insights from the communities we serve. We aim to build awareness and encourage you to take a stand against GBV.

Today, I call upon you to speak out. If you witness any form of violence or abuse, stand up, step in, or shout out. If you suspect someone has been subjected to GBV, please say something or offer to help. I invite you to join us over the 16 Days of Activism to share your own resources, engage in conversation with us, share tools, and help us build awareness and encourage accountability for ending GBV. Thank you.

Warm regards,

Dr. Taroub Harb Faramand
Founder and President

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