02/27/2013 04:26 pm ET Updated Apr 29, 2013

Forging a Plan to End Violence Against Women

The theme of this year's International Women's Day, coming up on March 8, is a strong desire to end violence against women and girls.

In recent months there have been too many reminders of how urgently we need to address this cause, from the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in a Pakistani town to the killing of a young Indian student as she returned home from the movies. These tragic events are indicative of the deep problems that exist and the difficulties many women face when going about their daily lives.

Violence against women may occur at home or in public spaces, and the motivations may be political or private. Unfortunately it is a phenomenon that almost all societies have in common. Yet we know that if women are to reach their educational potential and to live fulfilled lives, physical safety is a basic requirement. Children must be able to study and go to school without fear of reprisals. Young women must be able to move freely through cities' streets in day or night without risking violent attacks.

Discrimination and gender violence are closely linked. In a recent podcast Gita Sen, a professor of Public Policy in Bangalore, made the point that the shift in attitudes must start with young people: "The respect for girls, the recognition of gender equality as an inviolable norm, needs to be so deeply ingrained into children that by the time they grow up and become adolescents it's really part of them," she said.

Change must occur both in local communities and in the governmental sphere. Discussion -- facilitated by International Women's Day -- helps to bring change because it facilitates awareness and education.

I hope you will join me in giving thought to this issue in the coming weeks. Please share your ideas about effective ways to make the world a more secure place for women and girls.