President’s Message: Calling for a violence-free future

Dear Soroptimists,

25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marking Day One of the annual 16-day campaign against gender-based violence. Often, those most threatened with violence are women and girls and it is still a fact that 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime (WHO). Violence against women and girls (VAWG) has no boundaries. Young and old, those in both developing and developed countries, gender violence affects women, and men, of all backgrounds. The statistics remain staggering. 125 million women have experienced female genital mutilation (World Bank); almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday (UNICEF); it’s clear that VAWG is a global pandemic, heightened in populations affected by conflict and natural disaster.

The annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign begins with 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends with 10 December, Human Rights Day, and the official launch of the SI President’s Appeal, ‘Women, Water & Leadership’.

The UN theme ‘Leave no one behind: end violence against women and girls’ is a plea to ‘Orange the World’ and a global call for action. This year will see public events such as marches and concerts take place under the banner of the UN Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women by 2030. Iconic buildings will be ‘oranged’ once again – calling out for a violence-free future.

At the official launch, held at UN Headquarters in New York, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “Everyone has the right to live their life without violence or the threat of violence”. Phumzile goes on to say: “When we talk about leaving no one behind we want to identify all these different forms of violence that women experience. This violence takes place hidden, but in plain sight, normalized so it is hardly noticeable. It becomes just part of life.”

For almost 100 years, Soroptimists have advocated for the rights of women and girls; fighting violence in all forms. The forthcoming 16 days will see our 75,000-strong membership UNiTE together to spread a message of hope and determination, for women and girls world-wide.

We would love to hear what you or your club are doing to raise awareness over the coming 16 days, so please do send your stories and your photographs to the SIHQ office. Join us in sharing the message through social media and follow us on Twitter @SoroptiTweet.

Please join me in supporting 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

Mariet Verhoef-Cohen
SI President


Message by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November

UN Women Orange the World:–2017

World Bank Violence Against Women and Girls

UN Women Press Release:
WHO Violence Against Women Fact Sheet:



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