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MEET THE CHANGE-MAKERS

Taking action to end violence against women and girls

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One of the most significant barriers to ending poverty is
violence against women and girls.

35% of women worldwide have experienced a form of violence at least once in their life.

In Bangladesh, it's 67%.
This needs to change.

Mitu, a 17-year old community youth leader, attends a youth discussion group on ending violence in her community in the region of Tangail, Bangladesh.

"Once, my neighbour approached me asking for help because she was experiencing violence."

"I decided to confront the husband, asking him to stop."

"Who are you to intervene?"
he answered.

Mitu persisted.

"At first, my neighbour didn't want to hear it."

"But slowly, with time, he started listening. It felt great. "

"In my eyes, that was a success. I succeeded."

Mitu's courage to stand up and speak out is inspiring change with other young girls in her community.

Together, young girls are learning that violence is not acceptable. They are learning to demand their rights.

But what if those rights are not enforced by law?

There are laws in Bangladesh to protect women and girls against violence, yet they are seldom enforced.

"As a lawyer, my job is to provide legal assistance to the distress of women in the society."

Khurshida is an advocate and lawyer, who has dedicated her life to fighting for women's rights.

"I feel I can help in two ways. First, by providing legal assistance. Second, by focusing on the root cause of women experiencing violence and encouraging them to fight."

"Sometimes, I get threats from the defendants, trying to force a case's closure. But, it is my social responsibility to help these women and girls."

Khurshida credits Oxfam's Creating Spaces project for promoting community awareness and better understanding of the law.

"When I get feedback or a call from them, I think the awareness has built up among them. When the community people come to me breaking their own circle, want to know about the law, want suggestions from me about what they should do next, I think this is a result of Creating Spaces."

Sometimes laws need to change.

In Bangladesh, it is legal for young girls to be married at age 14 with parental consent.

Child marriage is a form of violence.

Being married early comes with many costs and the consequences are immense.

Girls are usually pulled out of school when they are married, locking them into poverty.

No access to education. Limited opportunities to earn income. Few chances to participate in community decisions that directly affect their life.

Violence is often seen as a "woman's issue". But it's important that young boys and men are part of the fight against violence and child marriage.

Faridul, 20, is challenging oppressive attitudes in his community.

"I watched my sister be forced to marry. I was too young and powerless to stop her marriage. I just stood by and watched it happen."

Faridul goes door-to-door to stop child marriage when he hears of it.

He's written a song and performs plays in his community. Through the Creating Spaces youth group, Faridul is actively influencing how people think about child marriage and violence against women and girls.

"Our goal is to make people understand that child marriage hurts everyone. It hurts the girl. A lot. But it also hurts her family."

"I have promised my sister and myself that I will not stand by and let this happen."

Violence against women stands in the way of their economic freedom.

Shampa, 30, explains...

"I got married at the age of 17 and worked for ten whole years. And yet, my husband used all of the money I earned."

"I'm a human being, I have personal expenses. But my husband wouldn't have it. If I brought up money, he'd hit me. I remember thinking: if I had a bank account, or some savings of my own, I wouldn't be in this situation."

Shampa took steps to take back control.  Alongside women in her community, she enrolled in an entrepreneurship training offered by Pollisree and Oxfam.

This training helped Shampa make a living.  It also helped her build leadership skills and claim her rights.

"Before starting my business, my husband didn't pay any attention to my opinions. Today, his attitude is changing. Now that I earn money, I help make the decisions for our family."

"Every woman needs economic justice. It is the only way to have equal rights."

Violence in all its forms deeply harms women, families, communities and societies.

But change is happening.

Women like Mitu and Shampa are standing up for their rights.

Boys like Faridul are stepping up.

Lawyers like Khurshida are promoting legal support.

Partners like Pollisree are giving women life-changing opportunities.

Communities are learning and norms are shifting.

You can be part of this change.

Join Oxfam's global
movement for change.


Together, we are creating the kind of change where everyone has equal rights and lives a life free from violence.

Together we can end the injustice of poverty and inequality.

Visit OXFAM.CA
to sign up or donate today.

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