Education and economic empowerment are key to ending violence against women
I am fortunate not to have been a victim of violence. For over 25 years, I worked as a local government executive in the prosecutor’s office and court system in the United States. I have seen firsthand the challenges that victims of violence against women face even in an advanced legal system. Everyone in the system struggles with the mix of emotional and legal issues which complicate the process. Often the most difficult, potentially explosive situations police officers encounter are related to intimate partner violence. Violence against women by strangers involves different issues; but also, often is emotionally laden. If a bank is robbed, the bank teller is not asked why she did not act to stop the robbery. Female victims of violence quite commonly are on the defensive with the police and in the courtroom. The legal system must ensure that criminal defendant’s rights are protected which can mean that victim’s rights are not.
It is imperative that all justice partners (judiciary, prosecution, defense, and victims’ advocates) are trained to properly handle the legal issues. However, the legal system is not the answer to violence against women. In the years that I worked in the justice system, I have seen the difference that training for judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys can make in the prosecution of crimes against women. However, the most important changes I have seen in the United State are societal. Although every county must have laws against violence against women and strong legal systems to enforce those laws, cultural changes accomplished through education and economic empowerment will be the best way to end the victimization of women and girls.
My vision for ending violence against women is that every girl and every boy would receive the education that they need to lead healthy, fulfilled lives and that this education would lead to an understanding of the value of every human being regardless of gender, ethnicity or religious affiliation. I believe that education is the key to ending practices that degrade women and girls. Denying education to girls is a form of violence that must stop. Education is a vital component for lifting girls and boys out of poverty. Economic empowerment helps women and girls stand up for their rights. Men and boys who have aspirations and hopes are better able to treat with women with respect and dignity.
My hope is that educational opportunities and economic empowerment will lead to equality for all and an end to gender violence.