This year has been like no other for women across the world. As António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, noted, "regressive laws are back, violence against women is increasing, and the pandemic has erased hard-fought gains."
One month ago, in the UK, where MAG is based, there began an outpouring of stories from women and girls following the disappearance and alleged murder of Sarah Everard.
MAG stands in solidarity with every woman and girl who has shared their story — and those that have not felt safe to do so.
The responses highlighted disturbing contradictions that guide public life for too many women and girls in too many countries.
Advice is given on how to change their behaviours to stay safe and, at the same time, women and girls are reassured gender-based violence is rare.
Over the last year, MAG has recognised the potential for movement-limiting Covid-19 restrictions to increase the prevalence of domestic violence against women and girls in the communities in which we work — as has been seen elsewhere in the world.
As part of our response, we have given practical advice on how women and girls can minimise the risk and seek support in the face of the threat. But we know that treating the symptoms will never cure the disease. Women and girls are not the problem.
The problem is that sexual harassment and gender-based violence are too often downplayed and viewed as normal. Women and girls are regularly accused of overreacting. Worse still, they are also conditioned to feel like they shoulder at least some of the blame.
But, in 2021, women, girls, boys and men have been reminded not only how upsetting but how common these experiences are to women and girls — across different countries and contexts.
MAG marked International Women's Day by celebrating our amazing female colleagues. We also acknowledged that we need to do more to realise our commitment to gender equality and the full and meaningful participation of women and girls in the humanitarian sector.
We are taking this opportunity now, however, to speak out in the strongest terms against gender-based violence. And reiterate our commitment to continuing to speak out wherever we see it.
Women should not feel scared to walk home. And we all have a part to play in creating societies where women do not have to be afraid — or trade their liberty for safety.
MAG takes safeguarding extremely seriously and is constantly improving our robust policies to protect the vulnerable communities in which we work — and we remain vigilant.
Protecting vulnerable groups has never ceased being a priority — to do so as vigilantly as possible has never been more important.
The global pandemic disproportionately affects the women and girls in mine-affected communities already acutely affected by conflict. Lives and livelihoods are dependent on a protected environment that is safe and free from gender-based violence.
MAG continues to appeal to our local partners, donors, multilateral and national authorities to support the delivery of our work in a way that recognises and is responsive to the potential impact of gender-based violence and the vital perspectives of women and girls.
Our gender and diversity experts are on the ground supporting MAG's programmes to take gender-sensitive approaches, including carrying out programme assessments that seek to understand how our global workforce is affected by gender-based violence. By working with our staff, we are committed to building and promoting a culture in which women can feel safe.
One organisation will not, alone, eradicate the scourge of gender-based violence but we will — and we must — play our part in calling it out and working to create safer futures for women and girls.