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Difference Maker

Karin Alfredsson travels the world to help stop violence against women

Author and journalist Karin Alfredsson founded 'Cause of Death: Woman' to investigate the worldwide epidemic of violent acts against women

By Gary G. YerkeyContributor / September 19, 2011

Karin Alfredsson is spearheading a nongovernmental project to document violence against women around the world, and to highlight the shortcomings and successes of legislation and other initiatives aimed at helping to curb it.

Linda Forsell

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Stockholm

Violence against women worldwide causes more deaths and injuries than traffic accidents, cancer, and malaria combined.

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Yet not enough is being done to stop it, says Swedish journalist and author Karin Alfredsson, who has launched an unprecedented global initiative aimed at focusing attention on a worldwide epidemic of violence against women.

"It's everywhere," Ms. Alfredsson says.

The project, called Cause of Death: Woman, is taking her or members of her team to 10 countries – Pakistan, Mexico, the United States, Egypt, South Africa, Spain, Brazil, Russia, Sweden, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – to document what they call the "violent reality" for women and to highlight ways to end it.

Alfredsson's team includes Kerstin Weigl, an award-winning reporter for the Swedish national daily newspaper Aftonbladet, and Linda Forsell, a photojournalist. Their findings and recommendations will be presented at a February 2012 conference in Washington, D.C., organized by the US-based National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

Alfredsson's project provides a catalyst for conversations, says Sue Else, president of the NNEDV. "We can't begin to address this epidemic problem until we talk about it openly and widely," Ms. Else says.

Funding (2.5 million Swedish kronor, about $390,000) is being provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; Sigrid Rausing, a philanthropist, anthropologist, and publisher; and the family of the late Swedish crime novelist Stieg Larsson, whose books often dealt with gender-based violence.

The project – an offshoot of Alfredsson's career as the author of five works of fiction focusing on the issue – will include an interactive website with real-life examples of women affected by gender-based violence and information on how to stop it, Alfredsson said in an interview at her home outside Stockholm.

More than 30 years ago, and almost single-handedly, Alfredsson persuaded Swedish authorities to take the issue seriously and to act more forcefully in handling cases of domestic violence, says Margot Wallström, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

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