Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres participate in the 2017 United Nations Official Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - UN Photo/Eskinder Debe
CAIRO – 26 November 2017: “Violence against women is fundamentally about power,” said the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a statement during a special event at the U.N. Headquarters in New York to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women observed annually November 25.
Guterres also called for collective global action to achieve gender equality and the full empowerment of women as an answer to ending violence against women. “It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality,” he stressed. He also highlighted that his policy to address sexual exploitation and abuse in the U.N. is one step towards achieving this goal.
The U.N. Chief noted that every woman and every girl has the right to a life free of violence, and that violence directly impacts women’s physical and psychological health. He added that violence also affects whole families, communities and societies and hinders the efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015. Moreover, he said that “violence against women is a major barrier to the fulfillment of human rights, and a direct challenge to women’s inclusion and participation in sustainable development and sustaining peace.”
Guterres referred to U.N. initiatives addressing violence against women in all its forms, including the U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, which funds 463 initiatives across 139 countries and territories. He also referred to the Spotlight Initiative recently launched by the U.N. and the European Union (EU) and the U.N. Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative that seeks to end sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces.
Other international organizations also marked the International day through events, statements and press releases:
UN Women: The leading organization of the Secretary General’s initiative UNiTE to End Violence Against Women marked the International Day with a press release highlighting that this year’s commemoration comes at a unique moment, coinciding with the mobilization of millions behind #MeToo as an escalating global protest against sexual harassment and assault. The organization called for seizing the moment to end violence against women and girls once and for all.
“Everyone has the right to live their life without violence or the threat of violence. This holds for all people, no matter what their gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity or caste, and irrespective of their income level, sexual orientation, HIV status, citizenship, where they live, or any other characteristic of their identity,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
UN Women explained that this year’s theme for the campaign is “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and girls,” in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It underscores that while no group of women or girls is exempt, the risks and vulnerabilities for some are greater. Identifying the most marginalized women and girls is fundamental to being able to effectively reach and respond to them, including disabled women, rural women, migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.
It stressed that violence has negative consequences on women and their families, the community and society at large, and it comes at a high economic cost for society. It added that the epidemic can end with a comprehensive approach that includes passing and implementing laws to protect women and girls and boosting efforts to prosecute offenders; prevention that starts at an early age to instill a culture of zero tolerance toward violence; and comprehensive services accessible to all survivors, including medical and psychological support, housing, legal advice, etc.
European Union (EU): In a statement the EU said that eliminating violence against women and girls is a first step towards global peace and security and that it is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The EU also said that ending the practice is a precondition for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights, gender equality, democracy, and economic growth.
The statement referred to statistics on violence against women and girls in the EU including that one in three women has experienced either physical and/or sexual violence, and that 80 percent of trafficking victims inside the EU are females. It also referred to early marriage in developing countries, where one in every three girls is married before reaching 18 years old.
It continues to highlight that positive change has been made during the last 30 years, such as decreased rates of female genital mutilation by 50 percent in Africa and early marriage in South Asia that dropped down by half. It also referred to the recent global #MeToo which contributed to drawing attention to the extent of sexual assault and encouraged victims to speak up, and claim and defend their rights.
On actions, the EU stated that there is a need to improve education and legislation and change social norms. It also announced that inside the EU, Lawyers, doctors, teachers and police, among others, are being trained to support victims and to prevent gender-based violence. While beyond the union, the statement refers to the joint initiative with the U.N. “Spotlight Initiative,” highlighting an unprecedented initial investment of €500 million to address the root causes of violence against women and girls, and to help victims and empower them to contribute to more secure, more resilient, richer and freer societies.
This article is part of Egypt Today's campaign “Break the Silence ... Say No to Violence” marking the 16-Day campaign of activism against gender-based violence GBV from November 25 to December 10.