THE BLOG
30/10/2017 10:01 GMT | Updated 30/10/2017 10:01 GMT

#MeToo Worldwide - Tackling The Root Causes Of Harassment

The growing momentum behind the #MeToo campaign that is encouraging survivors of sexual violence to speak out means that now more than ever we must keep this conversation going and acknowledge the 'p' word: patriarchy.

ActionAid works in countries worldwide to tackle violence against women and girls and within all the cases we deal with - from the women escaping rape in Zanzibar to the girls abducted for child marriage in Ghana - pervasive patriarchal norms are the core. That is why supporting women and girls to claim and live out their rights is at the heart of what ActionAid does.

It is hard to face the fact that the brutality and sexual violence happening to Rohingya women fleeing Myanmar, for example, is something that could just as easily happen within your own safe environment, but it can. It is only that warzones and poverty exacerbate the problems that are already there - the ongoing beliefs that woman and girls' bodies are inferior and exist for men to control as they see fit.

Research shows one in three women experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime and - as the #MeToo campaign proves - this is not only in poor countries or those in conflict. Rather than create a false sense of security to deal with this horrendous reality - including a refusal to consider the male dominated foundations that allow it to fester and grow - it is vital we keep the conversation going and address what is so wrong about this inequality. This shows that the shame is the perpetrator's, not the survivor's and encourages those too afraid to speak out for fear of stigma or reprisal from their families or communities, to have the confidence to do so.

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At ActionAid we create safe spaces where women and girls who are often marginalised and excluded from society can talk about the issues they face and learn about their rights. We help them break the culture of silence that surrounds their needs and speak out to create change. We also work alongside women's rights organisations, providing funding, training and support. And we campaign to ensure governments, donors and the international community support this approach and ensure that financing is available for it.

Ultimately, we know that when one person shares their story, it encourages others to do so and then great things happen. On October 10, for example, six women from Bangladesh who were attacked with acid by men took to the catwalk in London to share their stories and show everyone how powerful they are despite what they have faced. Traditional expectations are that they will hide away from society, but they have subverted this to global acclaim.

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Elsewhere, we also have women like Anne, a survivor of rape, who is campaigning for the rights of women and girls in western Kenya and Jimisha Dahn, a 23-year old activist in Liberia, who is presenting a radio show in collaboration with a network called Women Speak.

It is vital we speak out to end violence against women and girls, and challenge the systems and structures that condone it, so every woman and girl can fulfil their potential and live lives without fear.