Violence Against Women: An Obstacle to Development

by mandy lipka

I can’t believe that in 2014, I’m posting about the societal dangers that threaten women’s lives across the world. Recently, I’ve been deep in academia again studying International Women’s Health & Human Rights (which is partly the reason I’ve been so quiet lately). I try to embark on a new learning experience 3-4 times per year– It’s my gift to myself that feeds my insatiable desire to learn and helps me pave this path that I’m on. This winter, I started this phenomenal course which completely opened my eyes to the huge extend of violence against women in our world. Even this digital activist who does her best to disseminate information to empower women of all ages had no comprehension of the sheer numbers. It’s overwhelming. And makes me angrier than ever.

In fact, throughout the course, I noticed that I have gone through several of the stages of grief. I believe our professor carefully places each chapter in a particular order to elicit a natural catharsis so that by the end of the course, we’re so moved we can’t think of anything but how we can act to help create a culture shift.

It’s the desire to help take part in this culture shift that keeps me going. During my often monotonous daily life, the drive allows me to feel like I’m slowly paddling my way toward my shore. You know the saying– Do what you love, love what you do. Well, I love women. I love empowered women who are fiercely dedicated to equality, education, health, and humanism. I want to help all women feel each one of these rights. But to do so, I need to gather as much knowledge as possible. I need to know just how bad it really is. And then, the healing can begin.

Violence Against Women: An Obstacle to Development

Roxanna Carrillo examines the extent of the violence, identifies a contradiction between human development and violence, and shares an understanding of the causes of violence. In her report, she also sheds light on female dependency. She writes:

The socially constructed dependency of women on men is key to understanding women’s vulnerability to violence. This dependency is frequently economic, and results from various layers of sexist discrimination. First, much of women’s work is unpaid labor at home and in the fields which is not valued by society, nor calculated as part of the Gross National Product– the productive work of a nation. Second, even in paid jobs, women work longer hours for lower pay, with fewer benefits and less security than men.

Female dependency extends to other areas as well, psychological, social and cultural. Women are trained to believe that their value is attached to the men in their lives– fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. They are often socially ostracized  if they displease or disobey these men. Women are socialized to associate their self-worth with the satisfaction and the needs of and desires of others, thus, are encouraged to blame themselves as inadequate or bad if men beat them. This socialization process is reinforced by cultures in which a woman is constantly diminished, her sexuality commodified, her work and characteristics devalued, her identity shaped by an environment that reduces her to her most biological functions. Yet women are still blamed for ‘causing’ or deserving the abuse of men to them…

Further, violence itself makes women become even more dependent. Studies from several countries find that the escalation of violence undermines women’s self-esteem and their capacity to take action diminishes.

Unacceptable. How, in this century, is this happening? That’s a discussion for another day. Today, a friend was telling me about a photograph his wife took while she was in Ethiopia helping to build a clinic for underserved areas and families who lack access to care. The first thing he saw was a thin, disheveled woman in a light dress barefoot up a large, steep hill (a trek of about ten miles) while carrying a heavy pack of wood and branches– all while barefoot. As he extends his view to take in more of the scene, he notices a man in a suit not far behind her, sitting on the side of the hill, casually smoking without a care in the world.

My friend was furious. I wasn’t surprised. The more I learn about the developing world, the more I want to just give up my cushy life to go help. But for now, I must find a way to do my part from my little square in the world.

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