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By VOICE Founder Mendy Marsh

VOICE exists because we don’t believe that violence against women is inevitable or a normal part of conflicts, disasters, and so-called “normal” times. We exist to disrupt the status quo in the humanitarian system and beyond; to center actions to address violence against women and girls on what we know is necessary. 

We exist because multiple forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, continue to persist across generations, and we know that this is related to systemic failures. 

VOICE is one organization in an ever-growing ecosystem that is fueled by the frustrations of women and girls. The feminist movements we lead to address violence against women and girls continue to stand the test of time.

Andrea Dworkin’s speech is directed towards men, as it should be. Her speech does not put the burden of the fight to eradicate sexual violence on women. VOICE has chosen to invoke Andrea Dworkin’s speech, written 37 years ago, because it is as relevant today as it was then. We have just seen the global community come together in recognition of 25 years of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action on Gender Equality. The Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action was the most historic vision ever created for women, as it conceptualized equal rights, freedom from violence, and opportunities for women everywhere. This vision continues to shape efforts to address gender equality and women’s movements around the world.

VOICE is highlighting these struggles and progresses from the perspective of Time to emphasize the generations of women and girls that have fought for gender equality before us, and to acknowledge just how far we still have to go to free all women and girls from violence. Just a month ago, Generation Equality 2021 concluded as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform. At the Paris Forum in July 2021, ambitious policy and program commitments were made alongside bold investments to fund the new action-oriented agenda. However, at VOICE we fear that we will have to, yet again, invoke Andrea Dworkin’s speech another 25 years from now. This is especially important considering the critical gains that have been lost for women and girls around the world due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At VOICE we think the question should still be: what will it take to stop sexual violence against women and girls?

Systemic action is needed, because we know it is not just a few bad men. We know that it is primarily men who misuse their power and continue to rape and sexually assault women and girls the world over. Global patriarchal structures and organizations still allow for a world where there is not a place nor a moment in time where women and girls are free from the fear of men’s violence against them.

We need resources that allow our feminist movements to grow and become more sustainable places of recognition and replenishment, and platforms for re-centering women and girls everywhere - rather than places of labor. These spaces in particular often become saddled with demands to accommodate programming and concepts like male engagement. Women and girls bear the burden of oppression already: Along with increased caregiving responsibilities, we face the continued feminization of poverty, and the ever-growing barriers to healthcare and other essential services. These burdens will continue to profoundly threaten women and girls’ safety and well-being, economic security, and participation in public life and political life after the pandemic. Please do not continue to place the burden of responsibility for the violence that men perpetuate upon us as well. Let’s not forget - it’s largely men that have gotten us into this pandemic, and we know it will be women’s leadership and movements that will get us out of it.