Gender-based violence violates fundamental human rights and stands as a barrier to gender equality and poverty reduction. According to U.N. Women’s Facts and Figures on violence against girls and women globally, about 736 million (one in every three) girls and women aged 15 and older have suffered physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. Furthermore, in 2021, about 45,000 females worldwide died at the hands of intimate partners or family members. This equates to more than five females being killed per hour by the people closest to them. In 2016, U.N. Women highlighted that gender-based violence could cost the global economy about 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to $1.5 trillion, highlighting that the economic costs of violence go beyond the victim experiencing the abuse. But, the costs of violence extend far beyond physical and financial implications — violence impacts girls’ and women’s educational progress and full participation in the workforce, thereby preventing females from breaking cycles of poverty and hindering several key areas of development crucial to the advancement and prosperity of girls and women. The Borgen Project reached out to Leila Milani, Program Director of Global Policy and Advocacy at Futures Without Violence, to provide insight into the organization’s commitments to ending gender-based violence across the world.
When was your organization founded and what does it aim to achieve?
Futures Without Violence was founded in 1980, with the mission of preventing and addressing domestic violence. Since then, we’ve been working for over 40 years to address the impact of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence on survivors, their children, their families and communities, and work to prevent it from happening in the first place. Striving to reach new audiences and transform social norms, we train professionals such as doctors, nurses, judges and athletic coaches on improving responses to violence and abuse. We also work with advocates, policymakers and others to build sustainable community leadership and educate people everywhere about the importance of respect and healthy relationships. Our vision is a future without violence that provides education, safety, justice and hope. In short — our mission is to partner with communities to upend the conditions that fuel violence, shape systems so survivors of violence have the support they need to heal and thrive, and advance the policies and culture change needed to create a just and violence-free world.
How does supporting girls worldwide contribute to completing your organization’s overall mission?
Supporting girls worldwide is essential to development, health and prosperity in nations and communities around the globe. No nation has achieved gender equality in education, health, economic empowerment, power and decision-making and no nation has eliminated violence against women and the girl child. Investing, uplifting and empowering girls around the globe supports global peace and increases GDP but is also a duty of the international community as every person deserves access to uninhibited joy and freedom to live and love free from violence.
What is the best example you’ve seen of your organization’s work making a difference in girls’ lives around the globe?
Futures Without Violence has been at the forefront of advocating for policies that remove obstacles to girls’ education, address the drivers of child marriage, call for programming that increases girls’ opportunities for leadership and push for government-wide strategies that tackle barriers that keep adolescent girls from achieving their full potential. Additionally, mindful that none of this work can be done without the necessary resources and funding, Futures Without Violence leads civil society efforts to ensure that both the President’s annual budget request and Congress’s appropriations bills are inclusive of funds that can fuel the programming and efforts designed to advance the protection and progress of the girl child globally.
What message would you like to send to advocates who are passionate about supporting girls globally?
If we ever doubt the power and will of a young girl, fighting for her freedom and what she is willing to sacrifice in order to achieve the greatness that might be hers, we need to simply recall the cries of “Women, Life, Freedom” — cries that began in the streets of Iran and echoed all over the world. These girls have captured the world’s imagination, but they want more than our imagination. They want us to join their call and the call for girls’ freedom and equality all over the world. Our voice, our actions and our compassion matter and it will make a difference — in girls’ lives and the lives of their families and communities.
Even ordinary individuals can get involved and support the cause. Interested individuals can follow FUTURES guidelines on how to become a changemaker and an ambassador who aims to prevent and end violence in communities. FUTURES also relies on donations to support the programs it runs. Supporters can also explore the organization’s resource database for tools and resources to break cycles of violence. Additionally, FUTURES has fact sheets available online that supporters can share on social media platforms to raise awareness about the issue and inspire others to get involved. There is no action too small — every effort counts in the fight to end gender-based violence globally.
– Photo: Courtesy of Futures Without Violence