A silhouette of a woman standing in a doorway

Imagine a world without violence against women and girls. Imagine a world without violence. This is the world we want for all.

But we have a ways to go to get there. Today our newspapers are full of troubling headlines – from domestic violence, to sexual harassment in the workplace and the use of rape as a weapon in war. Sexual and gender-based violence is the most pervasive human rights violation in the world. Yet it often goes unrecognized.

UNDP is joining with other UN agencies in the #OrangeTheWorld campaign to end violence against women and girls. Together with activists around the world, we’re using the colour orange to call attention to the various forms of violence that prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential.

Close-up shot of a women's hands shaded in orange
Gender-based violence damages mental and physical health, hinders social functioning and affects a woman’s overall well-being. UNHCR photo

"Violence against women not only denies women and girls their rights, health and opportunities, but undermines all development efforts."  – UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner

A staggering one in three women will experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in her life. In some countries, the numbers are as high as seven in ten.

The risk is heightened in times of war. Civilians, including women and children, often suffer most during armed conflict. Refugees and displaced women especially may lose rights as they become less visible.

Two women stand outside a tent in a refugee camp.
Refugee and displaced women face greater risk of violence; they may lose rights as they become less visible. UNHCR photo

Poor women, and women belonging to minority or other marginalized groups also face higher risks. For Roma women in Eastern Europe, violence and discrimination may come at the hands of loved-ones and in the form of harmal cultural practices.

Drawing of a woman lying awake in bed, shaded in orange
Violence against women can take the form of harmful cultural practices like child marriage. It includes sexual harassment, cyber-bullying and human trafficking. Photo: UNDP Eurasia

The graphic novel Daria: A Roma Woman’s Journey shows the profound impact of early marriage on the lives of Roma girls and women. In the story, Daria finally takes a stand to stop the early marriage of her own young daughter -  speaking up to prevent a repeat of abuses she herself faced.

Like the fictitious Daria, real women around the world are finding their voices. In Guatemala, Elena de Paz was one of 97 witnesses who testified about sexual violence and other atrocities during the country’s decades-long civil war.

Portrait of Elena de Paz in traditional dress, shaded in orange
To end impunity for gender-based crimes, Elena de Paz and other women testified about the violence they suffered during Guatemala's civil war. Photo: UNDP Guatemala

“It is vital for there to be justice because I do not want my children to go through such a terrible ordeal,” Elena said. “I do not want such things to happen to anybody ever again.”

Elena’s story, and those of other survivors, helped bring accountability for war crimes – to ensure that such abuses are not repeated.

Getting justice for victims is essential to ending impunity for geneder-based crimes. In the east of Democratic Republic of Congo, medical, legal and other services help survivors heal from the physical and emotional wounds of violence.


The project helps survivors achieve financial independence so that they are less vulnerable to violence and exploitation. But women will remain at risk as long as they lack representation in the halls of power. That’s why it’s important to increase women’s participation in public life – as leaders in their communities, as elected officials and as decision-makers.

A female police officer sits in an auditorium with colleagues, shaded in orange
Nabila is one of 250 Afghan women police officers who competed training in Turkey. Their presence on the force helps improve women's access to justice. Photo: Igor Ryabchuk/UNDP Afghanistan

“Violence against women is fundamentally about power. It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.” – UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Gender-based violence isn’t an issue for women alone. By standing with their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, men too can help bring about change.

Many are already doing just that. They are challenging society’s norms, modelling positive masculinity, holding their peers accountable and teaching their sons the principles of equality, rights and respect.

Men march in favour of human rights. One man is shaded in orange.
Sexism and male privilege are the foundation for violence against women; men have a critical role to play in ending it. Photo: Ali M. Mahmoud

Men and women, political leaders and private citizens, we all have a role to play in preventing the violence that affects millions of women around the world. The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women is an example of how we can join forces to end gender-based violence.

Join the #OrangeTheWorld campaign to end violence against women and girls. Help spread the message by adding your voice during the #16Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

UNDP Around the world