Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Violence against women is a widespread phenomenon resulting in human rights violations and often unreported due to the stigma, silence and shame surrounding it.

The United Nations defines violence against women and girls as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Violence can occur in various forms in different stages of life and does not always include physical characteristics. While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, women and girls are more vulnerable and suffer dire consequences including educational, psychological and health consequences throughout their life.

According to the International Center for Research on Women, recent studies suggest approximately thirty-five percent of women worldwide have experienced a form of violence. This violence can take form in physical and emotional abuse, forced and unwanted sex, early and forced marriage, female genital cutting, trafficking and deprivation of resources and rights.

But why is violence against women so important?

Violence against women affects sustainability. The impact of violence not only affects the women directly involved but future generations to come. Ending the cycle of violence in all forms not only benefits those directly involved but the society the violence occurs in. For example, violence against women can prevent women from educational benefits which would result in limitations and opportunities for women in the labor market, translating to not only a lower economic but literary state for a nation.

Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women’s and girls’ human rights, the United Nations reports. “Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill-health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.”

To help create a world where women and girls are safe from violence, Thaakat is raising awareness of violence against women by honoring the plight of women worldwide through our LOVE campaign. LOVE stands for love over violence everywhere. We believe the best way to help end gender-based violence against women is to provide education early on and to engage as allies in women’s economic and social empowerment.

Thaakat Foundation dedicates the funds raised from the LOVE Campaign towards women empowerment initiatives at each of our global project sites in Ghana, Sierra Leone and in Pakistan. Most recently donations from this year’s campaign went towards education and support programs for new mothers in Sierra Leone.

When we heard women in rural Sierra Leone were risking their lives to give birth we knew we wanted to help. Women in rural Blama Perri were either delivering in unsafe conditions in their homes, walking miles to the nearest healthcare facility while in labor or jumping on the back of a bike. These circumstances, coupled with the practices of traditional and spiritual treatment created for one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

In Sierra Leone, one in four children die before the age of five, and one in eight women risk dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. In efforts to decrease mortality rates, we opened doors to the Fatmata Maternity Center in the rural region of Blama Perri, Sierra Leone in April 2014. More than 6,000 patients have been treated to date and over 150 healthy babies have been delivered. Apart from services provided to mothers and babies, our center provides medicines, vaccines and treatment to the general population.

When the district noted our success in bringing free and quality healthcare, clean water, electricity and disease prevention programs to this center they approached us for further support. They requested we continue to replicate our successes in villages across Pujehun as the high maternal and child mortality rates were a challenge across the country.

Acute respiratory illness and acute malnutrition are a few of the top reasons for infant visits to our Fatmata Maternity Center. Our programs empower women to nurture healthy babies through safe breastfeeding practices and good nutrition. Traditional birth assistants in the villages also support the program through lactation training.

At our center, we are committed to empowering women to take control of their health. At each appointment, our nurse and staff teach patients about STD prevention, proper nutrition, prenatal care, and best overall health care practices. To learn more about our Health Without Borders project read here.