Op-Ed by Ambassador Galt: “Mongolia and the United States: Partnering to Combat Gender-Based Violence”

Preventing and responding to gender-based violence globally is a cornerstone of the United States’ commitment to advancing human rights and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Every year on November 25, in countries around the world, the United States commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which also kicks off the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.  This year, for example, the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar hosted a screening of a widely acclaimed documentary film called Private Violence, which explores a simple but deeply disturbing reality for many women:  the most dangerous place for them is sometimes their own home.

Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime, and one in five will experience rape or attempted rape. In some places, especially in conflict zones, these statistics are much higher.

According to UN Women, violence against women causes more death and disability for women and girls between the ages of 15 and 44 than cancer, traffic accidents, malaria, and war combined.

At the same time, a recent World Bank study showed that violence against women has significant economic costs, including reduced economic growth, greater health care expenses, lost income for women and their families, and decreased productivity.

Gender-based violence comes in many forms, from intimate partner violence, rape, and sexual assault to early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation and cutting.  Each form of violence is a violation of human rights, a barrier to peace and stability, and a call to action for all of us.

The 16 Days campaign demands action from everyone – men and women, boys and girls, government officials and community leaders – to end gender-based violence around the world.

The United States is committed to being part of global efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.  We support projects in a number of countries to raise awareness of the problem, educate policymakers to increase legislative support, train service providers to better address the needs of survivors, and enhance justice and accountability.

The United States and Mongolia have a history of close cooperation in this area, working together to confront a problem that exists in both of our countries.  In line with U.S. efforts to protect women from violence, the U.S. government has provided significant funding to the International Development Law Organization to train Mongolian police, prosecutors, judges, and others on best practices to respond to domestic violence.

We have also provided a sizeable grant to the National Center against Violence – a leading Mongolian non-governmental organization working to combat domestic violence – to strengthen shelters’ capacity to provide services to victims.

We hope these programs will lead to better understanding of gender-based violence and bring about changes that will prevent such violence and improve the lives of victims when it occurs.

Ultimately, gender-based violence will end only when women and girls are fully valued by society and are able to fully participate in society.  Gender equality and women’s empowerment are critical to building vibrant democratic societies; supporting open and accountable governance; furthering international peace and security; establishing and strengthening market economies; ending extreme poverty; and addressing pressing health and education challenges.

Both history and data show that when women do better, their communities and countries do better.  So it follows that when women fare poorly, their communities and countries are also negatively affected.  That is why gender-based violence is an issue that we must jointly confront.

On an individual level, we can take small actions in our own lives to end gender-based violence.  We can support survivors by listening to them and believing in them.  We can encourage the women in our lives to be brave and speak up.  We can educate men and boys to support women and girls and stand up to violence.  And we can engage with those around us to explore and better understand gender norms, stereotypes, and expectations.

Gender-based violence is not inevitable.  As the 16 Days campaign ends on December 10 – International Human Rights Day – I am hopeful that each of us will take steps to stop it.