An Opportunity To Come Together

By:  Pamela Zaballa, NO MORE Global Executive Director

Due to a pandemic, we rapidly have fallen into a strange, previously unimaginable, new world. Though it’s been incredibly challenging to understand the virus’ ways and follow its movements, at the same time, it’s given some issues greater clarity and demonstrated that they can’t remain under the rug.

That is the case with domestic abuse. Not only has reporting increased, but global awareness has risen. As a society, we always suspected that many were not safe in their homes; with COVID-19 many started thinking more about them and what can be done to help.

That elevated collective consciousness is the first step in a world that aims to eradicate gender-based violence, a problem that has been allowed to persist at pandemic levels for decades. Now it is time to reinforce that heightened focus with strategic prevention efforts that use technology, education and community engagement to move forward.

The next step toward real and lasting progress will take the proverbial village.

To break barriers at an individual level, it’s critical to enlist active bystanders who challenge the status quo. The quiet activism that starts by telling family and friends that the attitudes, myths and neglect that we have all grown up with regarding domestic and sexual violence are not right and can no longer be tolerated.

NGOs and advocates who have been working tirelessly for decades have to reassess which strategies have demonstrated progress and which have fallen short. Let’s include all of society in our efforts. Men are an essential part of this story’s success because it’s not only about gender, but also about humanity and our future generations.

Governments and businesses need to build or expand their efforts, recognizing that domestic and sexual violence impact not only women and girls, but also carry substantial economic, public health and community costs.

Finally, we need everyone to come together. There is no miracle cure for gender-based violence. It will only come through sharing the great lessons we have learned through our efforts. Domestic and sexual violence does not discriminate; it is a global problem found in every society. Therefore, in a digitalised world, we can connect, exchange, learn, provide support, and continue expanding the collective consciousness.

That is why the Commonwealth Secretariat and NO MORE partnered last year. We both saw a tremendous opportunity to bring together the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries and positively impact nearly one-third of the world’s population.

And that is why our first project is launching a continuously updated digital portal to widely share information and tools, be inclusive and support governments passionate about moving this agenda forward. Their measure of success will not be in the number of cases but the availability of resources for victims, legal processes that protect those in need, and their vision to implement a prevention strategy that sees radical change within a generation.

The new Commonwealth Says NO MORE portal is also a resource for survivors, bystanders and grassroots advocates. It will increase understanding with voices of survivors, provide support with a directory of helplines in all 54 countries and expand the movement with ways to get involved in communities around the world.

This is only a first step, but it is a critical way to truly demonstrate that we ALL share a commitment to addressing the immediate crisis exacerbated by COVID-19 and to developing longer-term strategies to end domestic and sexual violence once and for all. In this new world, we find ourselves in, working together and learning from each other have never been more urgent nor more possible.

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