As we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls on 25th November, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland calls on all women and men to do their part to end violence against women and girls.

Violence against women is a global social crisis. Last year alone in Northern Ireland, over 1,200 women and children stayed in Women’s Aid refuges in Northern Ireland because their own homes weren’t safe, and Women’s Aid supported over 6,000 women through our outreach services. The 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline managed 25,935 calls.

In 2015-16, the PSNI responded to a domestic violence call-out every 19 minutes of every day.

International End Violence Against Women Day, which marks the beginning of the 16 days of activism on violence against women and girls, is an opportunity to break the silence around domestic violence, sexual violence, and other forms of gender-based violence.

These are not just ‘women’s issues’, they are everyone’s problem. We should all be outraged that women in our society suffer rape, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, so called-honour based violence, human trafficking and domestic violence.

While is encouraging that government is currently taking action on domestic violence to criminalise the psychological element of abuse, or what is known as ‘coercive control’, that’s not enough. We also need government commitment to continue funding vital services that support victims, like Women’s Aid. Our support services are quite literally a lifeline for many women and children who flee their homes because of domestic violence every year.

And we can’t do this alone. We need you, the public, to do your part. You can join the fight against gender-based violence by calling out victim-blaming or rape jokes. You could call the police instead of turning a blind eye if you see violence against women. You could carry the number of the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline with you, in case someone you know ever needs it. And if someone tells you that they have been raped or suffered domestic violence, listen to them and tell them you believe them.

There will be many opportunities for the public to show solidarity with victims of gender-based violence throughout the 16 days. Women’s Aid will be holding awareness raising events across Northern Ireland, including a White Ribbon event in Stormont on 29 November and a slide show on the Big Screen at Belfast City Hall on 25th-26th November.  On White Ribbon Sunday, 27th November, Churches across Northern Ireland will be raising awareness about gender-based violence with their congregations.

We’ll be keeping you up to date every day on what we’re doing during the 16 days, so keep an eye on the Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland web site, www.womensaidni.org, and our Twitter @WomensAidNI.