Jennifer Schlecht

In Memory of Jennifer Schlecht

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We in the VOICE community have been devastated by the murder of our dear friend Jennifer and her five-year-old daughter, Abaynesh. My thoughts are with all who loved her, especially those who supported her efforts to leave an abusive relationship.

Jennifer was a wonderful friend, mother and humanitarian. Her professional life was dedicated to empowering women and girls living through some of the world’s worst conflicts and crises.

I met Jenn in graduate school and always marveled at her focus and drive to better the lives of displaced women and girls. She touched people all over the world through her unforgettable smile, amazing courage and passion for making the world a better place.

It is my sense that she would want us to learn from the awful tragedy of her murder, to better protect those she felt called to serve. We cannot dismiss the violence she and her daughter endured as exceptional or rare—a moment of madness by a disturbed partner. Their deaths are part of a wider pattern of violence that too many women and girls face every day of their lives.

One out of every three women will experience violence in their lifetime, most likely at the hands of someone they know. Domestic violence is endemic – it is on our doorsteps; it is happening to friends and colleagues, and to women we will never meet. It is happening in our neighborhoods and in cities, towns and villages, across the world.

In our commitment to end this brutality against women and girls, we honor Jennifer and Abaynesh. Our work is for them: a celebration of the beauty and passion they brought to the world, and a mourning of the tremendous void their senseless departure leaves behind.

Ending violence requires all of us – women and girls, men and boys, activists, community leaders and governments – to change the culture and conditions that enables this to happen. It requires us to demand more of systems of protection, and to make institutions more reliable and easier to access for all who are at risk.

In love and solidarity, grounded in the new future we all must own for women and girls all over the world.

Mendy Marsh
Executive Director and Co-founder of VOICE