This post was written by Abriel Schieffelers, Communications & Training Manager for Oasis Belgium.
March 8th is International Women’s Day! Here at Oasis, we’re passionate about raising awareness about the inequality women experience around the world every day.
According to the UN, on the basis of data from 2005 to 2016 from 87 countries, “19 percent of women between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey.” There are many forms of gender-based violence, including partner abuse, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that often sees these abuses as the norm. These practices are embedded in patriarchal ideas of the power roles between men and women, and won’t end until we begin to communally resist these gendered structures. One statistic we always share with new volunteers is that it takes on average 7 attempts for a woman to finally leave an abusive relationship. It's only with the long-term care and practical assistance of a dedicated support system that battered women are finally able to free themselves of a violent relationship. Our team at Oasis wants to provide that support system to women who need it, but we can't do it alone.
Here’s some ways you can join us to shine a light on gender-based violence.
Join "the 9 campaign” | There’s no better place to begin advocacy with than at home. Through giving only €9 a month, you can play an active role in fighting gender-based violence here in Belgium. All of the donations we receive go directly to our project and are used in practical ways, for example to produce and print educational materials in Thai and English on how to stay safe in an abusive relationship or to allow us to accompany women to appointments where we provide translation and support. Join the campaign here.
Educate yourself | Documentaries like “Half the Sky” and “A Path Appears” by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn provide a glimpse into different forms of gender-based violence around the world. The award-winning journalists travel around the globe to meet activists working on the ground to change communities and to hear stories of women who have overcome. If you are more of a book person, check out the books the documentaries were based on here and here.
Buy Secondhand | Buying secondhand clothing not only reduces your carbon footprint, but it’s a great way of challenging the consumer culture we live in that perpetuates unjust labor practices, particularly in the textile industry. Women are working around the world in slave-like conditions in factories that make your favorite brands. In addition to working many hours for little pay in dangerous conditions, women are often subject to sexual assault and harassment in their workplaces.
Volunteer | Our partners at KoffieKlap in Antwerp are looking for volunteers for their cafe, which gives women valuable job skills after they have exited situations of exploitation. The Welkom Project is always looking for volunteers in the Brussels area to plan events, visit women we support, or fundraise. If you have time and a desire to get involved, we will find a place for you!
Join the conversation | Gender-based violence exists in every society, and it’s time to start conversations about it in our circles of influence. If you are part of a faith community, consider making it a priority to create safe spaces for women to report situations of harassment or violence. We recommend this resource to churches as a good starting point, and this resource for educating primary school children about healthy relationships.
We are dedicating this month to raising awareness about gender based violence here in Belgium and around the world. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay updated!