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Blog Violence against women is a global pandemic that must be stopped

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It marks the start of the United Nations’ annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. It is, as the UN states, a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls. Over the next 16 days, which culminates December 10 with UN Human Rights Day, we will publish a series of stories to help raise awareness about the scourge of gender-based violence and the need to respect human rights. Our initial post is written by Todd Minerson, Executive Director of White Ribbon, a non-governmental organization working to address and prevent gender-based violence. Barrick and White Ribbon have an ongoing partnership to provide gender-based violence prevention programming at Barrick sites and host communities in Zambia, Papua New Guinea and Nevada. Here, Todd gives us a sense of how pervasive gender-based violence is around the globe and what must be done to combat it.

Today is the United Nations Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women, the one day designated by the UN to address the pandemic of violence against women.

One day for a global pandemic.

Pandemic is not a word used casually by the UN, or the World Health Organization, and is the term they use to describe one of the most pervasive human rights transgressions on the planet. According to the World Health Organization, one in three women on the planet will experience intimate partner violence, or some form of sexual violence in their lifetime1. Violence against women is an issue that affects all of us.

White Ribbon is the world’s largest effort of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls. Since our inception in 1991, we have been engaging men and boys in the effort to prevent gender-based violence by promoting gender equality and working to promote positive masculinity. Our roots are in the tragedy of the Montreal Massacre, where 14 female engineering students were killed on December 6, 1989, at École Polytechnique.

To our knowledge, Barrick is the only mining company in the world to explicitly dedicate specific resources and commitments to addressing this pandemic as part of its social licence to operate.

Here in Canada, we are not immune to the pandemic of violence against women. Half of all Canadian women will experience an act of violence in their lifetime. There have been over 1,400 murdered or missing indigenous women in our country, rates that are shockingly disproportionate to their demographic profile. Each year it costs our economy over $7 billion to address the multiple and devastating costs of intimate partner violence2. When I work around the world, people are quite surprised to hear the extent of the problem in Canada.

Since 2012, White Ribbon has partnered with Barrick to deliver gender-based violence prevention projects at mine communities in three of their host jurisdictions: Nevada, Zambia and Papua New Guinea. We have developed unique strategies to engage the community and the workplace to make a meaningful difference in each of those places. To our knowledge, Barrick is the only mining company in the world to explicitly dedicate specific resources and commitments to addressing this pandemic as part of its social licence to operate.

We know this is not a uniquely Barrick problem. The prevalence of violence against women can be greatly increased in places where there is rapid economic development, migration for employment, little rule of law, increased alcohol and drug use, and predominantly male-dominated cultures. In other words, most places where extractive development or major infrastructure projects are taking place around the world. With this in mind, it is quite remarkable that Barrick is out front and alone in addressing this issue.

The only way to defeat a pandemic is to harness all of society’s stakeholders towards a common goal. Government, civil society, the private sector and the general public all need to be aligned and engaged. Sadly, we are still a long way from completing the job of November 25, ending violence against women. However, it is innovative partnerships and approaches like the one between Barrick and White Ribbon that give me hope that we are on the right track.

Todd Minerson is the Executive Director of White Ribbon, a member of the UN Secretary General’s Network of Male Leaders to End Violence Against Women, and Co-Chair of the Global MenEngage Alliance.