My name is Kasia, I’m 31 years old and I am the lucky one.

I am lucky becasue although I was born in a country with a communist system, I don’t really remember much from those times, except climbing trees and playing blocks. The system fell apart when I was 5 years old – so it didn’t manage to force me to anything what I didn’t want to, like e.g. marriage below 18 years old – which is the experience of 1/3 girls in the developing countries or 1/9 below 15 years old. Like 76% girls below 18 and 28% girls below 15 years old in Niger [1].

I am lucky becasue I have never experiences war by myself. The 90s, when there was a war in – not that far aways from Poland – Yugoslavia, I remember as one of the most beautiful times of my life – the one when you are between 5 and 15 years old and happiness is a really easy-cheasy thing. There is no hard data saying how many women experience sexual violence during the armed conflict – it’s quite difficult to measure it as the victims are not really willing to talk about it – about such a difficult and felt-like-shameful experience. Sometimes the trauma is easier to be ejected from the memory and forgotten than re-opening the old wounds again and again. It’s estimated though that during the conflict in Bosnia between 12 and 50 thousand women have experienced rape [2].

I am lucky becasue my parents are well educated people that have always believed in the power of education and this is what they have passed on to me. If I was about to choose one thing only, which they have taught me and say “this is the most important one”, that would be it. I also believe that the violence is result of the lack of education. Let’s have a look at Afghanistan – the country I had quite a lot to deal with recently via my work with the Afghan refugees in Vienna. Although Afghanistan has doubled its literacy rate from 18% of the population able to write and read in 1979 to 32% in 2011 (incl. 18% of women and 45% of men) [3], it still means that only 1/3 of the population is able to write and read. Afghanistan is the country that has been constantly experiencing violence for dozens of years. Uneducated people are much easier to be controlled, uneducated women are not that much able to stand up for themselves and it’s uneducated men who are usually the aggressors of the domestic violence.

I am lucky because I have never experienced physical violence – in contrary to 1/3 women worldwide. Think about your 10 closest female friends, remind yourself their faces. And now think that probably three of them have experienced violence in their life – although you probably don’t know it. The aggressors are usually their intimate partners. The UN estimates that ca. 70% of women worldwide experience physical and/or psychical violence at least once in their lifetime [4].

My name is Kasia and today – like every year – is my namesday. Today also starts the yearly Campaign of 16 Days Against Gender Violence, that will end on 10th of December – at the Human Rights Day.

I really am a lucky person. And I hope one day we will live in a world full of the lucky people only.

Graz, 25 November 2015

[1] UNICEF Data: Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women: http://data.unicef.org/child-protection/child-marriage.html#sthash.KbzVB8ZV.dpuf

[2] Crowe, David M. (2013). War Crimes, Genocide, and Justice: A Global History. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-62224-1. p. 343

[3] UNESCO: International Literacy Data 2014: http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Pages/literacy-data-release-2014.aspx

[4] UN: Ending Violence Against Women and Girls: http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/endviol/

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