Week three of this semester was dedicated to encouraging members of the ANU community to take “The Pledge” and stand against violence and harassment of women. Led by the ANUSA Women’s Department, informational banners were distributed around Union Court and at residential colleges, and the evening of August 7 saw a screening of The Mask I live In.

The prevalence of violence and harassment against women in contemporary Australian society has traditionally been removed from public consciousness. The past few years, however, has seen the issue landing far more media attention than previous decades.

Helen Brereton, from the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service in NSW, contended that the issue was a prevalent one. Campaigns targeting domestic violence have been launched nationwide by government agencies and at universities, including the ANU, to bring attention to what Brereton described as an “epidemic”.

On Tuesday 4th August, the Gender Institute presented a lecture on UN Women’s efforts to combat violence against women. The talk, while not part of the official “Pledge Week” schedule, was nonetheless timely in its occurrence. Tania Farha was the guest speaker, who, prior to her appointment as a policy specialist at the Ending Violence against Women Section, worked with the Victorian Police Force to implement reform programs against domestic violence.

Farha presented an overview of UN Women’s work to address violence against women around the world. UN Women’s mandate to work in both developing and developed countries distinguishes it from many other UN subsidiaries, given that humanitarian work is typical exclusive to developing countries. However, the frequency of domestic violence against women occurs at similar rates across the world, irrespective of nations’ position on the Human Development Index (HDI).

One in three women over the age of 15 experience violence during their lifetime, a rate which has increased since 1995.

When quizzed on the rising rates, Farha highlighted the gap between the creation of programs to address the issue and the ineffectiveness of attempts to implement them. To address these gaps in implementation, Farha stressed the need for an increased knowledge base, accountability and accessibility to services for victims of violence.

On a much smaller scale at the ANU, a similar approach is being taken. ANUSA Women’s Officer Loren Ovens said that “The Pledge Week” engendered “a dialogue that shapes our culture in a positive way and empowers members of our community to speak out against any form of violence on campus”. As Ovens stressed; “Everyone has a role to play in making our campus safe and being an ethical bystander.”