Violence against girls and women is a global pandemic. One in three women is beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime, a statistic that shames us all. It is the most widespread form of systemic abuse and there is no evidence that levels are decreasing.
It is an issue that the Huffington Post has been committed to highlighting and has been the subject of many recent Parliamentary debates. MP Bill Cash is currently taking an excellent Bill through the parliamentary process that if it becomes law will legally require DFID to makes sure that gender equality is considered before providing aid.
It is all too easy to think that there is nothing we can do to end the violence, to turn our backs and leave hundreds of millions of women across the globe to face this everyday tragedy alone. For me and my colleagues across Government this is simply not an option. We are leading the way in galvanising the international community to take action.
At the Department for International Development (DFID) we are putting the wellbeing of girls and women at the heart of our work in the world's poorest countries. Our Call to Action event, which fell less than a week after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, we secured commitments from leading humanitarian agencies that they will take action in emergencies to protect girls from violence and exploitation, helping to stop a bad situation becoming worse.
In the midst of a humanitarian crisis or armed conflict, when law and order can so easily break down, all forms of violence against women are known to dramatically increase, yet victims' safety often falls down the list of priorities for those responding to the crisis. That is why Foreign Secretary William Hague is also working to help end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
From Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to ensuring safety of women in a disaster zone, the UK is at the forefront of international efforts to end violence against girls and women.
FGM affects millions of women across Africa as well as thousands of girls in the UK. As the world's biggest supporter of activity to end FGM, the UK is backing an African-led initiative we are working to build a global movement to eliminate FGM in a generation, investing £35million to help governments, societies and communities abandon this culturally ingrained practice. We will not rest until FGM has followed foot-binding into the history books.
We work in more than 20 countries to directly address violence against girls and women. In Nepal we are helping improve access to justice for women and girls through local paralegal committees; in Somalia a UK-funded sexual assault referral centre is giving survivors a voice; in Nigeria we are working with community leaders to shift attitudes towards women.
But we cannot just treat the symptoms of violence against girls and women and ignore the cause. That is why we have invested £25million in gathering evidence that will help us understand the root cause of female victimisation so that we can develop targeted interventions that tackle gender-based violence for good.
The UK will be doing everything in its power over the coming years to bring an end to the brutality faced by girls and women in the world's poorest countries. This means putting woman and girls at the heart of our work. This means driving innovation and testing what works. This means working with women in the world's poorest countries to give them a voice. With the support of governments, aid agencies and you, the public, we have a real chance of making the elimination of violence against girls and women a reality around the globe.
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