A day to be consigned to the history books
As another November 25th dawns, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we cannot help but feel a sense of dismay that this day exists at all alongside a powerful sense of hope that the tides are finally turning.
Violence against women and girls is still one of the world’s most widespread human rights violations. It affects women of all ages, races, cultures, and social backgrounds and it happens everywhere: at home and at work, on the streets and in schools, in times of peace and during and after conflict. It takes many forms, from domestic violence, trafficking and rape to harmful practices such as child and forced marriage, “honour” killings, genital mutilation, dowry-related violence and prenatal sex-selection. Violence against women and girls anywhere at any time and in every form are unacceptable and must be stopped.
While international progress and commitment to end violence is encouraging, there is still much to be done. In order to step up efforts, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched his UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign on 25 November, 2008. The campaign calls on governments, civil society, UN Agencies, the corporate sector, athletes, artists, young people, and individual women and men from around the world to join forces to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women in all parts of the world. The social mobilization platform of the UNiTE campaign, “Say NO-UNiTE”, has already recorded over 2 million actions worldwide and continues to grow and inspire more positive change every day.
The UNiTE campaign aims to act as a catalyst for existing efforts to address and eliminate violence against women and girls by supporting, strengthening and spreading the promising results we are seeing around the world. After years of engagement, we know what works: we must raise awareness and promote zero tolerance for violence, most specifically amongst men and boys. Laws which criminalize violence and end impunity must not only be adopted but enforced. Finally, we must strengthen the quality and availability of multi-sectoral support services for women who have experienced violence, including the areas of police, justice and health services.
One tool which is uniquely placed to contribute to the goals of UNiTE on the ground is the UN Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women. The UN Trust Fund awards grants annually through an open and competitive process and works with partners across the world to secure much-needed services for women and girls affected by violence. Through its partners, the Fund also invests in long-term solutions for a world free of violence by supporting action where it matters most — at local and community levels. To date, demand far outstrips available resources and additional funds for investing in violence prevention and response programmes are urgently needed.
Preventing violence against women and girls before it occurs is key. Doing so often requires tackling deeply embedded cultural values, social attitudes and unequal power relations, which not only lead to violence against women and girls, but which are also often used to condone it. For too long, violence in the home has been viewed as a private matter, with fear and stigma surrounding the issue. Violence is not a private matter; it is everyone’s business and everyone’s responsibility to put an end to the silence which merely perpetuates the cycle of violence from generation to generation. To this end, young people play a central role in breaking the cycle once and for all.
We see that the young men and women of today are ready to change our world and we need to provide them with opportunities and harness their talents and leadership as they work to prevent and end violence against women and girls and build a more just, peaceful and equitable world. This year, the UN System will observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women under the umbrella of the UNiTE campaign while also highlighting the leadership of youth as agents of change.
Beyond the moral imperative of ending human pain and suffering, it is important to understand the far reaching consequences of gender-based violence on families, communities and society at large. The economic costs of violence against women reveal themselves in lost productivity and burdens placed on health care and justice systems to treat and support abused women and their children and to bring perpetrators to justice, funds which could instead be invested in improving public services such as health care and education.
Violence against women and girls is an obstacle to sustainable and inclusive development, peace and security. It devastates lives, fractures families and deprives communities of crucial human capacities. Until this scourge is eliminated once and for all, we need to make every day a day for ending violence against women and girls until the only thing our children know of it is to be found in history books.
By Nanda Krairiksh and Moni Pizani, Co-Chairs, Regional Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, United Nations
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was first declared in 1981 by the first Feminist Congress for Latin America and the Caribbean to commemorate the violent assassination of the Mirabal sisters on 25 November in 1960 in Dominican Republic. In 1999, the General Assembly designated 25 November as the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to direct the world’s attention to the urgent priority of end the pandemic of violence against women and girls which devastates lives, fractures communities and stalls development.