It's Time to Stop Digging Graves for Our Daughters


At the age of 22, Mariam[1] survived a rape, and thought her life was over. She never thought that she would pull through this ordeal that had tainted her, family and her clan. Today, thanks to work with CARE she feels another chapter has begun.CARE Somalia’s Foundation for Peace program worked in Mariam’s village to build the role of female elders in seeking justice and peace in the community. As part of this work, the elders decided to change their traditional practice of forcing survivors to marry their attackers. One female elder reflected on the changed practice, “We thought this was the right thing to do, but we have been digging graves for our own daughters,”


The elders chose to stand up for Mariam’s rights.  Now, she is happily married, and is an advocate who supports survivors. She says, “One year and one day later, I’m part of a newly formed women’s support group. I’m grateful for all the help I had along the way because without support and standing up and speaking out for myself, I would have NEVER made it this far. Staying silent will never work.” 


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three women (35%) throughout the world have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner[2].  It is time to stop this abuse.  That is why we commemorate 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Beginning November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, thru December 10th, International Human Rights Day, marks 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign. Events and activities held internationally during the 16 days raise awareness about gender violence and advocate for elimination.


Let’s start our activism with what we know about GBV. We base our advocacy and awareness raising on the evidence of GBV’s prevalence, the harms it causes, and solutions that work. We know that GBV is not unique to poverty.  It happens in all communities, religions, income brackets, and ethnicities.  It is based in power inequalities, and lack of alternatives for people.  We also know that it can be stopped.


  • Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects almost one third (30%) of all women worldwide[3].
  • One study by the WHO revealed that up to 70% of women experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives[4].

Child Marriage as GBV:

  • More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides, with 46 per cent of women aged 20-24 in South Asia and 41 per cent in West and central Africa reporting that they married before the age of 18.[5]
  • 1 in 7 adolescent girls will be married by age 15; “up to half of the girls in developing countries are mothers before they turn 18”[6]


  • Globally, women who experience Intimate Partner Violence are:
    • Twice as likely to experience depression and almost twice as likely to have alcohol disorders.
    • 16% more likely to have low birth-weight babies and
    • 1.5 times more likely to contract HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
  • Forty-two percent of women exposed to IPV have incurred physical injuries
  • 38% of all murders of women throughout the world are reported as committed by the intimate partner[7].  


  • Studies have shown that children exposed to violence in the home have more social, emotional, behavioral, and general health problems than children from families where there was no violence between parents.
  • Men who were exposed to violence during childhood are three to four times more likely to perpetuate IPV compared to men who were not exposed to violence as children[8].
  • Up to 50% of boys and girls who are exposed to GBV develop post-traumatic stress syndrome[9].


  • In the Unites States, the annual costs of intimate partner violence are USD 5.8 billion[10];
  • In 2010, GBV cost Vietnam $1.5 billion USD, nearly 1.4% of the country’s GDP.[11]
  • In Chile, GBV costs the economy roughly $1.7 billion in lost productivity annually.[12]
  • In November 2013, Tennessee estimated that Gender Based Violence cost the state $866 million, in 2012 alone.
  • CARE’s Costs of Violence Against Women (COVAW) project in Bangladesh found that the cost of domestic violence represents about 12.5% of Bangladesh’s national annual expenditure, or about 2.1% of gross domestic product



  • Situations of conflict, post-conflict, and displacement may exacerbate existing violence and present new forms of violence against women[13].
  • 83% of Syrian refugees in Jordan did not know there were any services available for survivors of GBV.[14]


  • In national studies conducted through West Africa, 16% of children interviewed in Togo named a teacher as responsible for the pregnancy of a classmate; 15% in Mali and 11% in Senegal[15].
  • In Ghana, 75% if children cited teachers as the main perpetrators of violence in school; 80% in Senegal[16].
  • In Zambia, nearly one third of students (32.8 per cent for girls and 31.7 per cent for boys) had been forced to have sexual intercourse by fellow students of teachers”.[17]


So how do we stop GBV? In FY13, 61 CARE country offices implemented programming that address GBV in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin American and the Caribbean, reaching more than 1 million people. CARE addresses GBV by integrating evidence-based strategies into programming areas such as education, health, economic development, and food security. Overall, 26% of CARE’s total projects in FY12 addressed GBV. Read the CARE International Impact Report to learn more about CARE’s response.  Check out CARE’s Blog and our webpage for updates on what we are doing throughout 16 Days.

[1] Name has been changed to protect the survivor.
[5] UN Women. Facts and Figures: Ending Violence against Women: A pandemic in diverse forms. <
[6] Plan International. Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2012. October 2012. <>. Page 21.
[8] World Health Organization. Violence and Injury Prevention: 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. Fact 8. <
[11] UN Women. Estimating the cost of domestic violence against women in Viet Nam. 2012. < Page 4.
[12] The Price of Violence Against Women and Girls, World Bank. News - Opinion. 7 March 2013.
[13] World Health Organization. Violence against women: Intimate partner and sexual violence against women. Fact sheet N°239. October 2013. <>.
[14] Inter-Agency Assessment of Gender-based Violence and Child Protection among Syrian Refugees in Jordan, with a Focus on Early Marriage. July 2013.  Accessed online at Page 2.
[15] Plan International. Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2012. October 2012. < Page, 15.
[16] Plan International. Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2012. October 2012. < Page, 15.
[17] Plan International. A girls’ right to learn without fear: Working to end gender-based violence at school. 2013. < Page 28.