International Women’s Day [March 8] is a time for celebration for many across the globe – a time to celebrate the achievements of women and the contributions they have made to society.
And there has certainly been great progress. The rights and opportunities we enjoy today are not the same ones our great-grandmothers – or even grandmothers – had access to.
But incidents in countries across the globe remind us that over 100 years from when we first started celebrating this holiday, there are still a number of very basic rights that women are not afforded. Chief among those is the right of women to be protected against violence.
Sadly, there are millions of girls and women who will not have the opportunity for celebration. Instead, they are living in fear of being attacked or abused.
It does not matter where they live or their background. Violence against women is something which crosses every boundary. It’s found in every continent, country, and community. You can be a victim whatever your age or education. Globally more than one in three women have suffered attacks by a partner or been victims of sexual violence.
But, of course, there are some places where such violence is still defended as a part of the culture. More than 125 million women and girls alive today – largely in Africa and the Middle East – have suffered female genital mutilation. It’s a practice which may have been going on for hundreds of years but that’s no excuse. We need to make sure the 21st century is when it ends.
There remain many countries, too, where child marriage is widespread. In some, girls as young as 12 are forced into marriage, often to much older husbands. Child marriage is outlawed in almost every country in the world. Yet over the next decade, nearly 14 million girls will be married before they are 18, robbing them of opportunities and, in many cases, causing serious damage to their health.
Civil war and instability also increases the risk of violence. Adolescent girls in conflict zones are the target for abuse and exploitation. Some find themselves trafficked as slave laborers or for commercial sex.
But violence against women is not something which only happens in other continents. It is a terrible fact of life in every neighborhood. And it requires all of us – whatever our gender – to demand action to say we are no longer prepared to accept the status quo. This is why UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and Global Citizen are coming together to ask us to #Showyourselfie.
#Showyourselfie is a year-long campaign designed to encourage world leaders to put the rights of young people at the center of the global development agenda, including the critical issue of violence against women. The idea is to collect thousands of #Showyourselfie images and stories, as a visual petition, to show at the United Nations General Assembly next September when countries meet to decide on how to build on the Millennium Development Goals.
It is vital for all voices, including yours, to be heard.
And we’ve seen the power of social media. Recently, young people were responsible for my co-star Emma Watson’s moving speech on feminism reaching millions more than those physically present for the speech at the UN because their actions on social media led to its going viral.
It would be great, of course, if it were easy to end violence against women, but it is not. It will only be overturned by courage, determination, and working together.
It’s these qualities we need to bring to the fight to drive this injustice from our world.
• Bonnie Wright is an actress, director, and Global Citizen ambassador.
[Editor's note: The headline and footnote of this post were changed at the request of the author.]