We hear a lot about violence against women, both in the United States and around the world. We hear about abuse -- physical, sexual, emotional -- and the lasting effects of abuse on the victim. We hear about trafficking women and children across borders for sexual slavery and forced labor. We hear about the lack of access to education for girls and women around the world, and the reverberating effects this denial has on their lives. We hear about genital mutilation, rape and honor killings, and we feel helpless. What can we do to help solve such complex, endemic and -- frankly -- scary problems?
We can march.
On Friday, March 7, UN Women for Peace will hold its annual March in March To End Violence Against Women. Participants will include Mrs. Ban Soon-Taek, the wife of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Patron of UN Women for Peace, as well as Trudie Styler, Cindy McCain, Naomi Campbell and others. They can also include you.
If you'll be in New York City on Friday, sign up to join this amazing group of women as they raise awareness of the injustices being done to their contemporaries around the world -- in the name of culture, tradition or plain old evil. As a lifelong advocate for health and the environment, I am humbled to be an honorary co-chair of the event. Abuse has lasting consequences on a woman's well-being, and this burden often carries over to her family.
A survey conducted late last year found that survivors of domestic abuse were 20 percent more likely to experience a chronic health condition compared with women who said they'd never been abused. These survivors reported experiencing low back pain; chronic headaches; arthritis; depression; diabetes; asthma; digestive disease; and elevated rates of impaired brain, immune or endocrine system dysfunction. Violence toward women is not finite; its consequences persist, and not only for the survivors.
We're not raised by strangers. When a child witnesses abuse in their home, community, tribe, or culture, they believe it is the norm. Hitting, raping, or mutilating women is accepted -- and expected -- in certain places around the world. This behavior perpetuates for generations, until nothing else is known. Learning how to demean, demoralize and deeply wound women is ingrained in boys from a young age if they are never taught otherwise.
We need to show them what strong, empowered, free women look like. We need to march together for each other, and for the countless women around the world we'll never meet but whose freedom and independence is as vital as our own. We need to stop the cycle of violence before it starts, in big cities like New York and in remote villages in the Congo.
If you can't attend the March in March, you can still take action by joining the UN Women for Peace mailing list, or making a donation. Join the ranks of inspiring women already fighting this important battle, and educate yourself on the unfortunate realities many women face every single day. Until the voices for peace outnumber the perpetrators of violence, our work will never be done.
March is Women's History Month. As we recall the magnificent accomplishments of the legions of women who have come before, let us strive for our own incredible feat, and make violence against women history.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and UN Women for Peace, in conjunction with International Women's Day (March 7). UN Women for Peace is hosting a March to End Violence Against Women on that day, in New York. For more information on UN Women for Peace and the event, read here.