Even though it is important to fight against violence every day of the year, on November 25th, we all come together to express our support for the determined struggle to create a world where violence will not be tolerated.
“The Soul Does Not Observe Set Times,” my grandmother, Gilah Gouri, of blessed memory, wrote in her book of sayings, “Journey and Sanctuary.” This brief adage shows how rebellious she was, and how her great, strong, merciful heart refused to obey external commands to observe holidays and festivals.
That saying has been with me all my life, and I especially thought about it this week, the week in which both the International Day of the Child, observed on November 21st, and the International Day to Mark the Struggle Against Violence Against Women, observed on November 25th, both occur, so close to one another.
Thinking about this saying is a way of expressing my ambivalence about days like these, that occur once a year; International Day for the Struggle Against Racism; International Peace Day; The Day of the Child; International Women’s Day. So many single days. On the one hand, it is good that tomorrow we will observe a day to raise public awareness and put the issue of violence against women on the public agenda. But on the other hand, in this world in which at any given minute, women are suffering from physical, sexual, verbal, financial violence our souls should be screaming at all times, every day or the year. In a world that is not safe for girls, teenagers, and women, we cannot just move on to November 26th.
Yet, with all my ambivalence, I know that this day is still necessary. In the past few weeks alone, three women from Jaffa and Lod have been murdered; over the year, 19 women in Israel have been murdered. The annual report of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, which was presented last week to the Knesset Statutory Committee for Gender Equality, includes troubling data about the numbers of calls they have been receiving: 43,000 calls were made to the centers this year; in 88% of the calls regarding sexual assault, the victim knew his or her attacker.
Every week, there are new testimonies on the “One out of One” Facebook page, posted by women who have been sexually abused. At least 200,000 women suffer from severe violence from their partners. And in addition, sadly, we hear the views of women who prefer to denounce, attack, and place the blame on the survivors of this violence, rather than condemn the perpetrators.
A discussion on silencing assault victims at the Knesset's Committee on Gender Equality
A world that isn’t safe for girls, teenagers, and women isn’t safe. Period. Every child has the right to grow up in a world free of gendered stereotypes, norms, and constructs that assign them specific roles or dictate their behavior, dress, and outward appearance. Every girl, teenager, and woman has the right to live in a world that recognizes their equal value and their unique contribution to the world. Every girl, teenager, and woman has the right to live her life free from political and social oppression. Every girl, teenager and woman has the right to know that she belongs to a society that will do all it can to guarantee her safety. Every girl, teenager, and woman has the right to know, every minute and every day, that she is a worthy human being and that she has rights.
And for those of you who ask, “What about boys, teens, and men?” They also have the right to live in a world that will not accept violence, whether by them or towards them. They also deserve to live in a world in which women are full and equal partners in shaping their society and their public spaces. They, too, deserve worthy political leadership.
Two weeks ago, Donald Trump was elected to be the next president of the United States. In January, a new president will take up residence in the White House, after running on a campaign filled with misogyny and degradation of women, xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia. But it wasn’t Donald Trump who created this system. He only used it to win the elections.
Among the many op-eds and analyses and predictions in the media, a brief article in the Huffington Post that called on the public to support women’s organizations stood out and caught my attention.
Indeed, standing strong in the face of oppression, discrimination and violence against women is a never-ending struggle. Radical change towards gender equality won’t happen by itself. The changes in the world and in Israel are the result of daily, professional and dedicated work by feminist organizations. The work these organizations do to eradicate violence against women and promote gender equality is sacred. And they do what they do on shoe-string budgets, thanks to the professionalism and endless dedication of the employees and the volunteers. They do all this even though government support doesn’t cover even the most basic expenses – if the government provides any support at all.
The budget of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs allocated towards the struggle against violence against women totals 50 million shekels a year, which amounts to 0.00000659% of the 2016 national budget. No matter how we look at it, the government is sending us a message that violence against women just isn’t important.
Philanthropy also has a very important role to play in the effort to make this world a better and safer place for girls, teens and women. Philanthropy is crucial in order to advance the role of women as valuable change agents. Philanthropy has an important role to play as we build a society in which every woman and every man can live their lives, free from oppression and discrimination.
“The Soul Does Not Observe Set Times.” I hear the voice of my grandmother, may her memory be a blessing. There isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a single day when the world holds its breath for a brief moment to cry out for women.
Now, more than ever, every day should be a day when we contribute to women in order to advance gender equality.