By Nicole Kidman, Actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador
Cross-posted from UN Women.
At least one in three women and girls will be subjected to violence and abuse in their lifetimes -- that's more than one billion lives destroyed by trauma and injury.
One in three -- that is not just a horrifying statistic. It means at every moment of every day, there is a woman who is suffering a brutal beating in her home, or a devastating sexual assault. It means that somewhere a girl will lose her childhood when she is forced to marry before she turns eighteen. A young girl is in excruciating pain as her genitals are mutilated, right this minute, leaving her with a lifetime of physical and mental scars. It can be your friend, your neighbor next door, your co-worker. It can be your family member. Who is next?
One in three. As a mother of three daughters the thought is simply unbearable. It is chilling to realize how dangerous the most ordinary places can be for us women and girls. We could be beaten or raped, while simply taking a stroll in the park or on our way to visit a friend; harassed at school, or while browsing the internet. The threat is always there and most often, violence against women and girls occurs where we should be safest -- at school, in our homes, with our partners.
One in three. It's an outrage. I am also the mother of a son. I cannot and will not accept that he should have to live in a world with a distorted notion of masculinity. As long as our boys learn that manliness equated with dominance and violence is acceptable, we are a long way from the foundation of mutual respect and equality that must inform any relationship between girls and boys, women and men. At the heart of this pandemic of violence against women is the deep rooted inequality between the sexes. We need to rethink and reshape what it means to be a boy or a girl, a man or a woman.
As a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, I have met with survivors and learned a lot about what works and what's needed. I know that the law must protect women and girls to ensure their basic human right to a life free of violence and bring abusers to justice. I have seen the urgent need for services for survivors -- for safe houses, medical assistance, counseling and legal advice.
I remember vividly when the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women happened in 1995. As a young actress, even though I was far from the action in Beijing, I experienced it as a moment of great hope and aspiration. Countries everywhere in the world committed to gender equality and made ending violence against women a top priority. They agreed that violence is one of the main barriers to equality, because women and girls lose opportunities to learn, work and thrive when they experience violence. They face life-altering health consequences. The shame and marginalization can shut them away from public life. No area of women and girls' lives goes entirely untouched by violence or the potential for it.
Since Beijing, a lot has happened. We can look back and see how a powerful momentum to stop all forms of violence against women and girls has gathered. Many more women and girls today are indeed protected by laws and services. Men and boys have joined the effort to end violence and promote equality. But more needs to be done.
It all starts with us, so don't look away. Don't stop the conversation.
To me, there is no greater injustice than violence against women and girls. That's why, as UN Women's Goodwill Ambassador, I have spoken most on this issue. As an actress and activist, I can raise my voice and help raise awareness. As a neighbor and friend, I can intervene when I see abuse happening. As a mother, I can teach my children to value and respect themselves and others. I can teach them not to condone or accept discrimination and violence against women and girls. To make violence against women and girls an issue of the past, we have to start with the generations of today and the future.
Starting from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day, activists around the world will be taking action, raising their voices against gender-based violence. They will use the color orange visibly and creatively to make it impossible for anyone to ignore the issue anymore. Take part in it. Orange YOUR neighborhood to raise awareness. Reach out to your neighbors, local stores, schools, libraries and post offices.
Imagine a world free from violence against women and girls. A world where equality and respect and justice are not just ideals, or possible for only a few women and girls, but the norm for all of us. Each of us has a role to play to make this happen. Play your part.
In November, UN Women is recognizing Violence Against Women month as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. For more information about the UN Women Beijing+20 Violence Against Women campaign, click here.
This blog post is part of a HuffPost series in collaboration with UN Women, in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. To see all the other posts in the series, click here. For more information about UN Women's Beijing+20 campaign, click here.