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Globally, we are witnessing a growing backlash against women’s rights, which is further normalizing violence against women and girls. While many countries have made real progress in advancing gender equality, too many still suffer from dangerous patriarchal conditioning and conservative religious trends that restrict and punish women and girls for the very act of being female.

I wrote these words earlier this fall as part of a report my team and I produced for the Spotlight Initiative, a groundbreaking partnership between the United Nations and the European Union to end all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.

The facts are dire: 1 in 3 women globally experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime; half of the women killed in 2012 were killed by an intimate partner or family member; defenders of women’s rights worldwide are being silenced, imprisoned and murdered.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this terrifying situation. In the face of economic fragility and widespread lockdowns, women and girls everywhere are more vulnerable than ever to gender-based violence. Widespread reports warn of skyrocketing levels of violence and diminished support and services.

Today marks the start of the annual “16 Days” campaign to urge global action to end gender-based violence. Each year, this campaign kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, Human Rights Day. Sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and supported by the United Nations and women’s rights’ organizations around the globe, it is a time for increased advocacy and more voices.

In the report Davis Communication Strategies produced and published in October, we highlight a “16 Days” campaign event in 2019 where more than 500 boda boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers dressed in orange and drove through Kampala, Uganda, with signs and messages about making the streets safe for women and girls.

It is a powerful reminder that each of us has the capacity to help end violence against women and girls. Within our own communities. Within our own families. Each using our God-given talents and strengths.

Curious where to start? Here’s an advocacy guide and social media toolkit to help share information with your networks.

I am extremely proud of the report my team and I produced – an overview of the Spotlight Initiative’s key results since 2019, including many efforts to adapt and respond to the challenges of this year’s global pandemic. We not only researched and wrote the report but designed and finalized the layout. Entitled “Universal Rights, Global Action,” it speaks to the diverse, growing, global movement that supports and demands human rights for all.

I hope you enjoy it – and I hope it inspires you to join us in this critical, collective mission.