Image courtesy the United Nations.

Today, 25th November, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls is observed, countries around the world are being called upon to “take immediate action to build a brighter future that is free from violence”.

Today marks the beginning of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence—from International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls on November 25th to World Human Rights Day on December 10th.

In his message to commemorate the occasion, Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, says “now is the time to redouble efforts so we can eliminate violence against women and girls”. 

He made a special appeal to confront this “most pervasive and pressing human rights issue in the world today”, with “long-term strategies that tackle the root causes of violence, protect the rights of women and girls, and promote strong and autonomous women’s rights movements.”

And UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous, maintains it is time to view violence against women and girls as “a global crisis”.

The UN Women chief called for people everywhere to work for an end to this global crisis, which has been exacerbated by conflict, climate-related natural disasters, food insecurity and human rights violations, and by pandemic conditions that deepened isolation and enabled unseen violence in a second “shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls, where they often found themselves in lockdown with their abusers”.  She notes while much has been achieved to prevent and reduce violence against women and girls, the challenge now is to “expand global efforts and make a difference in more lives”.

The 2021 global theme for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now”.

In the Caribbean, the UN Women Multi-Country Office for the Caribbean will focus on “Safer Spaces for Women and Girls”—at home, in public spaces (including public transportation), and online.

Its “Spotlight Initiative” is working with governments and civil society organizations to prevent domestic and family violence by raising awareness, establishing and implementing laws and policies and improving quality essential services for survivors.

Data on how serious the domestic violence situation is for women in the Caribbean can be accessed here.

MESSAGE FROM ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations. (Image courtesy the UN)

Violence against women and girls continues to be the most pervasive and pressing human rights issue in the world today. 

It is both an abhorrent crime and a public health emergency, with far-reaching consequences for millions of women and girls in every corner of the globe.

The latest figures from UN Women confirm that during the COVID-19 pandemic, levels of violence against women and girls have increased.

Across 13 countries, almost half of all women reported that they or a woman they know began to experience gender-based violence during the pandemic.

Almost a quarter of women reported that household conflicts had become more frequent. A similar proportion said they felt less safe at home.

Violence in any part of society affects us all. From the scars on the next generation to the weakening of the social fabric.

We can draw a straight line between violence against women, civil oppression and violent conflict. From rape and sexual slavery used as tools of war, to the thread of misogyny that runs through violent extremism.

But violence against women is not inevitable. The right policies and programmes bring results.

That means comprehensive, long-term strategies that tackle the root causes of violence, protect the rights of women and girls, and promote strong and autonomous women’s rights movements.

This is the model that the United Nations has built through its partnership with the European Union, the Spotlight Initiative.

Last year, in partner countries, we saw a 22 percent increase in prosecution of perpetrators. Eighty-four laws and policies were passed or strengthened. And more than 650,000 women and girls were able to access gender-based violence services, despite restrictions related to the pandemic.

Change is possible.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts so that together, we can eliminate violence against women and girls by 2030.

STATEMENT BY SIMA BAHOUS, UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF UN WOMEN

Sima Bahous, UN Women Executive Director. (Image courtesy UN Women)

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Here at the UN, and across the world, we are celebrating those who are working to protect women and girls and defend their human rights. And we welcome new partners — governments, organizations, institutions, community groups, people everywhere — to join us, raise your voices and work together to transform lives, not only during the 16 Days of Activism, but every day.

Violence against women is a global crisis. In all of our own neighbourhoods, there are women and girls living in danger. Around the world, conflict, climate-related natural disasters, food insecurity and human rights violations are exacerbating violence against women. More than 70 per cent of women have experienced gender-based violence in some crisis settings. And in countries, both rich and poor, gender prejudice has fuelled acts of violence toward women and girls.

Violence against women often goes unreported, silenced by stigma, shame, fear of the perpetrators and fear of a justice system that does not work for women. The COVID-19 pandemic, with all its isolation and distancing, has enabled unseen violence: a second, shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls, where they often found themselves in lockdown with their abusers. In all corners of the world, helplines for violence against women saw an increase in reports.

The human rights of women — including the right to security, dignity, equality and justice — are core principles of international law. And we know that the leadership and safety of women, in all their diversity, plays a vital role in economic progress, community welfare, children’s health and education, and more. All human life benefits when women’s human rights are upheld, and we all suffer when those rights are abused.

But there is hope. In recent years, much has been achieved to prevent and reduce violence against women and girls. The challenge now is to expand global efforts and make a difference in more lives. We must ensure that essential services are available and accessible to women of all ages. We need to support environments, online and off, in which women can participate safely in decision-making.

New opportunities are opening. Last summer, as part of a USD 40 billion commitment to the women and girls of the world, the Generation Equality Forum launched the Action Coalition on Gender-based Violence. The Coalition brings together a wide array of women’s groups and others: youth, civil society, faith-based institutions, philanthropy, private sector, international organizations and UN Member States. There will be concrete financial and policy commitments, and scaled-up initiatives in critical areas: survivor support services, legal frameworks and more resources for grass-roots organizations.

Today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence also opens some exciting hopes. It begins the annual “16 Days against Gender-Based Violence,” a series of events aimed at creating real change. For 2021, the theme is, “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now!”.  “Orange” symbolizes a brighter future, free of violence. I welcome and urge you to participate. 

Women’s groups and concerned people everywhere have been vital to the progress that has been made. Going forward, together, we can make life better and brighter for many more girls and women across the world.