WITH the Christmas festivities picking up momentum, an underlying danger awaits millions of women around the world – and here in the UK – with the number experiencing violence at the hands of a partner or family member rising significantly during the festive season.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Domestic Violence (25 November – 10 December) highlights gender-based violence, with 25 per cent of women in the UK being affected by domestic violence during their adulthood. In Scotland, at least one in five women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime.

Violence is devastating and, in all its forms, negatively impacts individuals and communities; yet, it continues to be women who are disproportionally affected by gender-based violence and inequality – a major cause and effect of poverty, oppression and discrimination. Tellingly, a statement in the 1995 UN Human Development Report claimed that ‘poverty has a woman’s face’.

The 18th of December marks the 40th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – the international bill of rights for women, ratified by 180 states including the UK. And although progress has been made, much more needs to be done.

In terms of violence against women, gender equality and rights, today women are facing increasing barriers.  Things are not going forward – they’re going backwards. 

It is estimated that, globally, one in three women experience gender-based violence in their lifetime; 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not outlawed; and approximately one third of married women in developing countries report having little or no say over their own healthcare.

Unless we address the underlying social and unjust structures that keep people in poverty, it will continue to be handed down through generations of women and girls.

This Christmas, Christian Aid wants to make a difference – to empower women and give them the opportunity to live full lives.

Across the globe, millions of women are raising children in the toughest of circumstances due to poverty and prejudice. Mothers like Ranjita in India.

Ranjita, 30, started accompanying her mother as a manual scavenger when she was just nine-years-old. As a manual scavenger, she endured 10-15 hours of degrading work a day that involved the cleaning, carrying and removing human excrement from latrines and sewers – by hand. In return she earned scraps of stale bread and as little as 20 rupees (23p) a month. As a Dalit – the most excluded of the caste system – she is poor and marginalised, and has little opportunity to escape the systemic cycle of poverty she finds herself in.

Now a mother herself, Ranjita’s children give her the courage and fighting spirit to break free from poverty. And thanks to Christian Aid’s local partner organisation, ARUN, she has learned about her rights and opportunities and was helped to apply for a grant to start her tailoring business.

Although Ranjita’s daily life is now far removed from the indignity of manual scavenging, we should not shield ourselves from the truth. Her life is not free from the challenges of systemic poverty, but she is a change-maker and she is building a different life for her children. Her daughter will journey into a more equal future, equipped with gifts from her mother. We can be part of that transformation.

By working with our local partners on the ground, Christian Aid helps mothers begin to break the cycle of poverty by learning new skills to improve household income or ways to protect their families from harm.

It’s clear that when women are given the opportunity to thrive, they can transform our world, challenge inequality and seek justice. This Christmas, if you’re going to make one donation this year, make it a life-changing one. Help mothers – like Ranjita –escape poverty and create new hope and a new future for themselves and their children.

To make a donation, visit christianaid.org.uk/christmas-appeal 

Sally Foster-Fulton is head of Christian Aid Scotland