On the subject of statistics, former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin is reported to have said, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic,” while the inimitable Mark Twain opined, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Whatever your opinion on statistics might be, there is no denying they can have a powerful effect on we human-shaped humans. While some will argue that they lack the context needed to make proper decisions, they can be an essential tool in bringing those decisions to the attention of others.
Dear reader, my original plan for today was to write a long, passionate missive about the scourge upon humanity that is violence against women.
I had planned to write many words condemning those who would visit violence on woman, vilifying those countries where domestic violence as NOT been outlawed, and praising those who have made positive changes, such as the President of Gambia, who in 2015 banned female genital mutilation as “a harmful practice with no place in Islam.” I planned to do this and more, but after a brief research session I found myself floored by a statistic, a single nugget of information that left me breathless with it’s unspeakable truth and horrible implications.
1 in 3 women worldwide have been the victims of violence in their lifetime.
For those of you playing the home game, that’s roughly 1.1 billion people.
The UN has called it a pandemic, but I’m not sure that word is strong enough. I’m not sure there IS a word strong enough to describe a horror such as this. The number of women who face violence around the world is simply staggering. 1 in 3 women. Those numbers should chill the blood of anyone who reads them. Here are a few more:
- 6.5 million – The estimated total number of people displaced by the Syrian civil war.
- 334,863 – The number of documented deaths (so far) in the Syrian civil war, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
- 4.5 million – The number of victims of forced sexual exploitation – 98% of which are woman and girls.
- 100 million – The estimated number of people who were homeless worldwide (as of the last UN survey in 2005)
- 35,000 – The estimated number of people who are homeless on any given night in Canada alone.
Dear reader, I’m not naïve. I realize that there are many equally serious issues in this world. I know that, even as I write, people are dying in a hundred other locations around the world. I realize that poverty, injustice and cruelty occur in ever corner of our planet each and every day. It makes people feel helpless, impotent. What can we do?
I’d like you to do me a favour if you would be so kind. Wherever your travels take you today, pause for a moment and take a good look at the people around you, particularly the women, and remember: at least one is statistically likely to have been the victim of violence, whether it be physical, psychological or sexual.
One of those may have even been you, and for that, I have no words.
Some time ago I wrote an open letter to women working in the technology sector, in a sincere attempt to accept some level of the responsibility for the way they have been treated by their male colleagues. I hoped that by doing so, it would encourage others to do the same – to speak up when they see women (or anyone really) being mistreated. That feeling of responsibility and desire to something is not limited to the technology sector. It applies everywhere, from the subway, to the grocery store, your workplace and the home.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you see statistics like the ones above, and despair that there’s nothing you can do. You can’t help the 1.1 billion women who will be victims of violence, the 6.5 million people displaced by the Syrian civil war, or the 35,000 who will have no place to sleep tonight. But you may be able to help one person, one family, one woman, and that will make all the difference. Compassion grows exponentially from its application.
Look around you today at the people you meet. See the faces behind the statistics, their hopes, their dreams and their fears.
Take a good look around. Those statistics have names.