While the work is far from over, the world has made some strides in prioritizing women's rights and safety this year.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is Nov. 25 -- a day to remind the world that global violence against women is a preventable human rights violation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), current efforts to protect females globally are not enough, even with increased awareness for issues facing women and girls. The organization points out, for example, that roughly 1 in 3 women globally has experienced either physical or sexual abuse from a partner, more than 100 million women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), and about 70 million girls have fallen victim to child marriage -- all issues that either directly cause harm to women or increase the likelihood they'll face physical violence.
But although significant challenges remain, important steps have been taken toward protecting women and girls and ensuring gender equality in 2014.
Read below to learn about recent progress made to stop violence against women:
Domestic Abuse Is Decreasing In U.S.
Annual rates of nonfatal domestic violence fell by 63 percent between 1994 and 2012, as the Christian Monitor pointed out. The survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in April, shows a steep decline in domestic abuse since the Violence Against Women Act passed two decades ago under the leadership of then-Senator Joe Biden.
The UN Declared That Every Nation Should Outlaw Child Marriage
On Nov. 21, the U.N. adopted a consensus urging all states to stop "child, early and forced marriage" -- a practice that affects roughly 15 million girls every year, disproportionately in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As UNICEF points out, girls who marry before their 18th birthday are more likely to experience domestic violence and die due to complications in childbirth.
Leaders Are Taking Action Against Female Genital Mutilation
Under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron, the U.K. pledged 1.4 million British pounds (about $2.37 million) in July to implement an FGM Prevention Program that will hold parents accountable if their child is cut. FGM is a procedure that intentionally alters the female genital organs for non-medical reasons -- potentially causing infections, infertility and severe bleeding -- according to WHO. At the 2014 Girl Summit, Cameron said FGM is "in total violation of the chance to enjoy your childhood and the chance to lead a fulfilling life."
Girls Worldwide Can Increasingly Go To The Bathroom Without Fear Of Attack
A private toilet may not seem like a privilege to some in westernized countries, but to the millions of girls and women living without access to basic sanitation, safe restroom facilities could make a life-saving difference. Without a private toilet to use, females in the developing world are often forced to relieve themselves in the open, which increases the likelihood they'll be sexually assaulted or raped. However, political commitments guaranteeing populations have access to basic water and sanitation services are "at an all-time high," according to Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the WHO Department of Public Health and the Environment. Global efforts to implement those commitments are continuing to gain momentum as well.
Sexual Assault In Military Service Academies Dropped
Sexual assaults at U.S. military service academics declined slightly last year to 53 incidences, compared to 58 the year before, the Pentagon reported.
“Sexual assault is a crime and has no place at the academies, just as it has no place in the rest of the military,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said in a statement.
Though the drop is small, and the Pentagon stated that it wasn't clear if the decrease was a result of fewer assaults occurring or fewer victims reporting, any progress is a step in the right direction.
Take action to protect women and girls on the United Nations' website.