Turning 30 | Turning the tide on violence against women

My PicturesWhen 30 per cent of women across the world will experience violence from their partner in their lifetime this is something we should care about.

When every year between six and ten per cent of women suffer at the hands of their partner in the UK.

When 1300 calls are made to the police every day.

That’s one a minute. And the majority of cases are not reported.

When men think hitting a women is okay. When love loses to control. When domination takes away freedom.

Then it is time to act.

A few years ago I sat beside a pool in Portugal. The sun beat down, the heat became overpowering and I dived in to cool off. It was almost all I did for a week. I took a few excursions, explored the sights, and returned each evening to the converted barn, frankly more of a shed, that stood atop a hill in a village with seven permanent inhabitants. The gnarled olive trees littered the hillside, the hum of distant traffic invading across the airways as the sun dipped for its final appearance of the day and vanished leaving only a smudged hue along the horizon.

That week I averaged a book a day. I read fiction, I read theology. But one book stands out several years later. One book I could not shake or forget with inevitable business of work that bookended by holiday. This book was Half the Sky, written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky has the unambiguous, unashamed, agenda that if we are to solve many of the world’s most intractable problems, many of the fundamental stumbling blocks of development, women are the key. And many of these most intractable problems affect women the most.

Women bear the brunt of healthcare deficiencies, childbirth is dangerous the world over but in places with only rudimentary healthcare it makes giving birth a double or quits battle of life and death. When women are educated countries do better, when they contribute to the economy, when they start and run businesses.

But women are also marginalised, they are attacked, they are not wanted, they are mutilated. Female babies are discarded, girls are treated as property, they are traded, women are forced into silence. And they are beaten. And they are killed.

It is a tragedy. And it happens in our world today.

And it also happens in Britain too.

As I sat by the pool in Portugal tears streamed down my cheeks. I felt broken by the pain seen and shared. I felt lost by the distance I stood from this hurt. I felt unable to do anything. How can I stop women thousands of miles away having their bodies torn apart. How could I do anything to stop their worth being disregarded, how could I help them play the role they were created to play?

And I came home. And my life went on. I saw the problems, I was bewildered by their complexity and distraught at their impact. And I walked on.

I want to walk by no longer. I want to stop by the side of the road. I want to walk back up the road, I want to help not only those affected but ask why they are and what can be done to stop them. Sometimes that’s harder, it’s longer, it’s a more boring work.

It’s why I’ve set out on this crazy idea of raising money to tackle violence against women. If you want to join with me please let me know.

The easiest way to raise £30 000 is for 1000 to give £30 each. The problem is I don’t have 1000 friends. According to facebook just over 500, but I’m not sure who a few of them are. I’m getting close to a thousand followers on twitter but many of those don’t engage with even the funniest things I post. Maybe more pictures of cats are needed.

The only way I can reach this target is if you get behind it and encourage other people to be a part of this. The money is only half of it. I want to raise awareness, I want to share stories, I want to give hope. I want more people, and particularly more men, to stand up, to be counted, to insist violence against women is never acceptable, never justified, and not allowed to go on in silence.

I want to listen and I want to learn. I am new to this. I want to hear stories that break my heart and ones that fill me with hope.

My rough plan is to set up a web page, decide where the money is going, find ways for you to give, do some awareness raising. I may do some small fundraising activities this side of Christmas but the big splash will be in February next year where I’ll organise a big remote activity. To take part you’ll have to donate £30, and are very welcome to raise sponsorship over and above that.

I’m open to suggestions as to what that could be, I’m not much of a runner, so maybe that would be a good challenge, or maybe a big walk on the last Saturday of February which anyone in or around London can take part in, but also encouraging other simultaneous events around the country and across the world (probably not exactly simultaneous because of time differences (although that might be fun)).

What do I need first? I need someone to build me a web page. So if that’s your skill set please get in touch. A friend has worked up a few design ideas (at the top of the page), which I’d be grateful for any feedback on before we settle on anything final.

What do I need next? I need a few people to help me organise, I’d quite like a little steering group to keep me motivated and provide input and wisdom so volunteers appreciated for that too.

Otherwise just let me know you’re interested by subscribing to the temporary page I’ve set up.

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