When Images of the world's disasters flash across our television screens, more often than not, we are presented with a rough sketch of the humanitarian crisis. Rarely do the cameras venture beneath the surface to look at the hidden impact of a humanitarian crisis on affected communities. If they did they would find that virtually without exception, it is women and girls who are the most vulnerable.
In many countries today, the breakdown of law and order exposes women to untold discrimination, exploitation and violence which is often committed with impunity. In Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, sexual violence and rape have been deliberately used as weapons of war and as means of destroying the very fabric communities. In Nepal, a decade of civil unrest has disputed schooling and forced girls into domestic servitude, while declining law and order has led to a sharp rise in sexual violence. Poverty and hardship in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and in parts of South Asia have fueled a global trafficking industry that is defined by high levels of exploitation and abuse.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg. Violence against women is so widespread in different societies -- in all our societies -- that one is sometimes left with sense of helplessness as to where begin to act. But we must act and we must act with sense of urgency in both the private and public spheres.
Broken Bodies, broken dreams offers a powerfull testimony, through phototgraphs and text, of the different types of violence that define the everyday existence of countless women and grils. It examines the natur of this violence through the cycle of women's lives, including discrimination at birth and at school, domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, servitude and abusive cultural practices.
We are now in an area like no other in human history, where governments and civil society are starting to act together to uphold and fight for human rights. We are also in an area of unprecedented communication and access to information, which allows us to do document the full extent of how gender-based violence affects women's live.
This book serves to raise awarness and provoke action in addressing the causes of gender-based violence, as well as assisting and defending the millions of women targeted by violence, once outraged by its injustice, we do not choose to act against it.
United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator