If it were between countries, we'd call it a war. If it were a disease, we'd call it an epidemic. If it were an oil spill, we'd call it a disaster. But it's happening to women, and it's just an everyday affair. It is violence against women. It is sexual harassment at work and sexual abuse of the young. It is the beating or the blow that millions of women suffer each and every day. It is rape at home and on dates. It is murder.

There's no secret enemy pulling the trigger. No unseen virus that leads to death. It is only men. Not all men, but far too many men. In some countries most men will never be violent against a woman; in others, the majority of men take it as their birthright to do what they want, when they want, to women.

And just who are these men? Just regular guys. Men from all social backgrounds and of all colours and ages. Rich men and poor men, men who toil in the fields and men who sit behind desks.

All those regular guys, though, have helped create a climate of fear and mistrust among women. Many of our sisters, our mothers and our daughters, our girlfriends and our wives do not feel safe in their homes. At night they cannot walk to the store for bread or rice without wondering who's walking behind them. It's hard for them to turn on the television without seeing men running amok in displays of brutality against women and other men. Even those women in relationships with men who are gentle and caring feel they cannot totally trust men. All women are imprisoned in a culture of violence.

Men's violence against women isn't aberrant behaviour. Men have created cultures where men use violence against other men, where we wreak violence on the natural habitat, where we see violence as the best means to solve differences between nations, where every boy is forced to learn to fight or to be branded a sissy, and where men have forms of power and privilege that women do not enjoy.

Men have been defined as part of the problem. But the White Ribbon Campaign believes that men can and must be part of the solution. Confronting men's violence requires nothing less than a commitment to full equality for women and a redefinition of what it means to be men, to discover a meaning to manhood that doesn't require blood to be spilled.

With all of our love, respect and support for the women in our lives:

We urge men around the world to wear a white ribbon, or hang a white ribbon from their house, from their vehicle, or at their workplace each year for a week, sometime between mid November and December 6, depending on the dates of the White Ribbon campaign in their country.

We ask unions, professional associations, student groups, corporations, religious institutions to participate. We urge government to pass comprehensive laws against all forms of violence against women and to fund programs for survivors of this violence, such as shelters for battered women and rape crisis centres, and for services to treat violent men.

We call for large-scale educational programs in schools and work places, for police officers and judges, on the issue of men's violence.  We believe that respect for girls and women and equality between men and women are preconditions to ending the violence.

We urge men to organize local and national White Ribbon Campaigns, open to all men and boys, right across the political, social and economic spectrum.  It has been the longest war, the greatest epidemic, the biggest disaster. 

With strength and love, we commit ourselves to work alongside women to bring this violence to an end. 

MICHAEL KAUFMAN, Co-Founder White Ribbon Campaign

Introduction White Ribbon Campaign ~ What  Every  Man  Can  Do

Caucasus 16 Days Index ~ CaucasusNOW

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E-MAIL: womenaid@womenaid.org    Reg. Charity No. 299224