Violence Against Women Is Real, Present, and Universal

Today marks the observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Unfortunately, for many of us who work in the global reproductive health and rights sphere, it’s especially, even harrowingly, resonant this year.

Video still of Jennifer Schlecht speaking to an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars about family planning in humanitarian settings, less than one month before she was murdered

Earlier this month, the community learned of the tragic and untimely death of our global reproductive health and rights colleague Jennifer Schlecht, who, along with her five-year-old daughter, Abaynesh, was murdered in a shocking act of domestic violence.

Jenn was a beloved friend and colleague to many in our community, and although I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I’ve gained a strong sense of what she was like from the many heartfelt tributes that have poured in from those who did. She was a tireless advocate for women and girls around the world, working for the Women’s Refugee Commission and FP2020 to promote vital services for women in humanitarian and refugee settings.

Her death is a grim reminder that although gender-based violence may be more common in some contexts, it cannot be viewed as a problem for “other” people in “other” places. It’s a global issue that requires a global response. Of the 87,000 female homicide victims each year, 58% are killed by a family member or intimate partner—50,000 per year around the world. One in three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. There is no level of education, wealth, or status that can make a woman immune to the risk.

This threat will not end if we cannot recognize it for what it is—real, present, and universal.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing abuse by a domestic partner in the United States, please contact the National Domestic Hotline by calling 1-800-or visiting the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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