We now have, for the first time, explicit targets to eliminate violence against women in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These demand accelerated action. When more than 70 world leaders took the podium in New York at the Global Leaders' Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment on 27 September 2015, the majority named ending violence against women and girls as a priority for action. It is indeed a priority. I believe that if we all work together: governments, civil society organizations, the UN system, businesses, schools, and individuals mobilizing through new solidarity movements, we will eventually achieve a more equal world--a Planet 50-50--where women and girls can and will live free from violence.
Governments must ensure girls have knowledge of and support in exercising their own rights; a supportive environment where they can voice their concerns without fear of stigma or disbelief; assurance that they will not be re-victimised through a slow legal process; and girl-centred, specialist support services, if and when they are required.
At times, voices come back claiming that violence against women is in no way tolerated by most of our society, and some claim (perhaps condescendingly) that I am a victim of my own tragic loss, that I may be more prone to see violence where there is none, because my life has been shattered by it, after the violent death of my wife.
Its easy to be a little skeptical but hard not to be inspired by the ambition and potential of these unprecedented goals. Personally I think this represents a great leap forward and makes me hopeful about what we can achieve collectively in the next fifteen years. Remember, these are your Goals. Every single one of you.
People always ask me how I can work on violence against women? "Isn't is depressing?" they say. On my way to South Africa last week for the Sexual Violence Research Initiative Forum - the largest international conference on violence against women and girls in the Global South - the flight attendant said to me, "Don't you find it overwhelming?" For me, I wonder how I could not work on this issue.
The level of culture change that's needed for cyclists to feel safe all the time is dauntingly huge. At best, motorists are telling cyclists, "Yes this is our game, our bat, our ball, our rules - but you can play if you want. We own the road but you can use it. What more do you want?" What needs to happen is a new game, new rules. Power has to change hands. That's still a long way off.
A World Bank report published last week found that in the past 25 years, over a hundred countries have enacted laws on domestic violence though many have not. The authors attribute much of this progress to international instruments and agreements. In reality, it is the work of local women's rights organisations that makes the most difference and that's why they need our support.
The numbers matter. Without clear and accurate data, women's experiences of violence are written out of the story on British crime, and policy decisions on how to respond to domestic violence are made based on only half of the picture. How do we develop appropriate and effective responses to a crime we do not fully understand? We need to get to the bottom of why in 2015 thousands of women and children are still being traumatised and brutalised in their own homes. We need to understand why women and children are still being killed and killing themselves to escape domestic violence.
In November, Sierra Leone was reporting 550 new cases of ebola every week. Today the number has slowed to seven new cases a week. Just a few weeks ago, the schools reopened. But there is still a long road ahead for Sierra Leone, and the brave women of West Africa who have already endured so much. I hope that next spring these tragic times will all be in the past, and Sierra Leone's future will once again look bright.